Victims of domestic violence and trauma experience life differently. Survivors of trauma, in particular women with a history of Intimate Partner Violence, have 42 percent higher health costs, and are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke; they are 70 percent more likely to have heart disease; 60 percent more likely to have asthma; and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily.
They are three times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and are at high risk for unwanted pregnancies. It’s a sad comment on our society that being murdered by an intimate partner is the number one cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women in the United States.
A new group called Seeking Safety is starting up at Providence Seaside Hospital in cooperation with the Harbor, an intervention, recovery and support group based in Astoria for survivor’s of domestic violence.
“We’re very excited to expand our services into the south county for survivors and to begin meeting with clients where they are,” said Amy Lewis, a Harbor healthcare advocate.
For non-English speaking clients, Paula Bartheld is the Spanish speaking bilingual advocate.
The Harbor has a health and care grant allowing them to reach out to survivors in healthcare settings. “Starting this support group is the first step to doing that,” Lewis said.
“We know that after telling a trusted family member or friend, survivors of domestic violence are most likely to tell a medical provider, a counselor, or clergy.”
She said developing strong partnerships with medical providers such as Seaside Providence Hospital has enabled the Harbor to serve more survivors. “For many people in a IPV relationship, visiting their doctor may be the only time they can get away from the abuser in their life.”
Seeking Safety is an evidence-based model focusing on clients interested in creating safety in their lives.
The curriculum takes survival coping skills victims have already developed from experiencing trauma, and teaching them how to build on those skills to develop better coping skills to use in their daily lives.
“The Harbor served over 1,500 clients in Clatsop County in 2017,” Lewis said. “We know there are more survivors we can serve in a medical setting.”
Angela Braaten is a licensed social worker and group facilitator at Seaside Providence Hospital. Allison Whisenhunt is also a licensed social worker and social work supervisor at the hospital.
The Seeking Safety group will meet at Seaside Providence Hospital once a week for about an hour, Braaten said. Participants must be female and at least 18 years old.
The group provides support to individuals healing from trauma.
“We work with developing coping skills and techniques to handle the effects of trauma, Braaten said. “ It’s open to any female experiencing IPV trauma whether in the past or present.”
The curriculum instructs survivors how to recognize tools they already have to cope more safely.
“This is not a group where people come and talk about their trauma,” Lewis said. “We do talk about how the trauma has impacted the person’s life.”
The group is limited to 8 to 10 people and there are 24 sessions, but regular attendance isn’t mandatory.
“People can come and go,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s an open invitation.”
“Our mission is to support the vulnerable,” Braaten said. “And to help people develop healthy coping skills to manage their situation.”
Seeking Safety meets at Seaside Providence Hospital on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The group meets in Education Rooms A or B. The hospital is located at 725 S. Wahanna Road in Seaside.
Enrollment is open and participants are welcome to join at any time as long as they have a referral. For those without a vehicle or money for cab fare, funds and resources are available to help with transportation.