Less than two years after a mass shooting killed 14 people in San Bernardino, tragedy struck the California community again last Monday when an elementary school teacher was fatally shot by her husband in an apparent domestic violence incident. The abuser also killed an eight-year-old boy and wounded another child, before turning the gun on himself.
Beth Brown, a licensed social worker at TriStar Centennial’s Parthenon Pavilion, an HCA affiliate and Nashville’s largest behavioral health facility, knows all too well the dangers of being involved in an abusive relationship. A domestic violence survivor herself, she is now using her voice and experience to help others before it’s too late.
“It took me seven times over a three-year period to find the strength and courage to leave my then fiancé,” Brown said. “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through – bruises and injuries to my ribs; being pushed or thrown across a room; having pillows put over my face, and being isolated from my family and friends.”
“I am grateful to work for an organization like TriStar Centennial that throws out a lifeline to its patients, and hopes that victims, like me, just might grab it,” she added.
The support that Brown is referring to is the newly formed intimate partner violence (IPV) task force and training pilot at TriStar Centennial Medical Center. This task force and training will help hospital employees and caregivers recognize the signs of domestic abuse that a patient may present while in the emergency room.
“While TriStar Centennial Medical Center always has been a safe harbor for victims of domestic violence, we are sharpening our focus to ensure we catch as many victims of abuse as we can in our safety net,” said TriStar Centennial’s Chief Nursing Officer Cynthia Stroburg.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 37 percent of women who sought care from a hospital ER for violence-related injuries were hurt by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Additionally, the Violence Policy Center states that nearly three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners.
Yet, a victim of domestic abuse can come to an emergency room without any visible signs of harm and still can be in life-threatening danger.
Acting as a resource to the TriStar Centennial Medical staff is Dr. Bill Smock, an internationally recognized forensic physician and police surgeon, who educates caregivers and others on the domestic abuse warning signs.
“Together, we can make an impact in Nashville because this truly is our opportunity to intervene before a fatality occurs,” he said.
Brown, who publicly spoke of her abuse for the first time at TriStar Centennial Medical Center’s Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Kick-off event, reminded the staff to see her face when women pass through the ER and remember that one in three women experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“My face is everywhere we turn – in our schools, churches, at work, or at the grocery store – but it is in our ER that we have the opportunity to reach them, maybe for the first time, and ask about their pain, injuries or offer an escape from the box they’ve been put in by someone they love.”
Because of her own personal experience, Brown pursued a master’s degree in social work and makes it a priority to ensure that her patients have the appropriate medical care and follow-up resources.
“Our hospital is one of the safest places a victim of domestic violence can be and we will work with that patient in confidence to make sure the entire family is safe,” Brown said.
“It’s my passion to help other women and let them know there is a better life. As caregivers, we can be that ray of hope that throws out a lifeline and realize that, like me, they just might grab it and never look back. I haven’t.”
TriStar Centennial Parthenon Pavilion social workers (left to right): Shelia Preston, Beth Brown, Amber Smith and Kimberly Lawrence at the IPV task force kickoff event.
TriStar Centennial Medical Center, an affiliate of HCA and TriStar Health, is committed to putting an end to the major public health issue of domestic violence. Resources for help are available by calling the Tennessee Domestic Violence hotline at 800-356-6767 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. All calls are confidential.