Happy Valentine's Day? Not for everyone

Nurses should be extra vigilent around Valentine's Day to spot signs of possible domestic abuse, says major trauma co-ordinator Amanda Burston

It's a sad fact, but while Valentine’s Day can mean red roses and romance for some, others can expect to see an increase in domestic violence. At a time when many couples spend a little extra time, invest a little more emotion, appreciate and embrace each other, in the dysfunctional relationship between perpetrator and victim Valentine’s Day is often not a time of celebration.

A perpetrator can feel pressured by an environment in which advertising promotes the expectation of romantic gestures and love, often displayed as soft, tender, with an underlying theme of everlasting happiness. Every minute of every day should be tinged with a rosy glow.

A victim may allow themselves to enjoy this period, living in the hope and belief that maybe this time, at long last, the perpetrator will change their behaviour. The victim will be clinging to the love they once felt, the moments of tenderness they shared and may well make attempts to recreate the past.

This new hope can be challenging for the perpetrator/victim relationship because for a while, both parties may be swept up in the moment of emotion. Unfortunately, as quickly as the hope came, it quickly disappears as the perpetrator quickly seeks to regain control and the status they crave. It is during the regaining of control that the level of violence can increase as the perpetrator chooses to make a bold and memorable statement.

As professionals we need to be extra vigilant when seeing unexplained injuries, depression, vague symptoms or a lack of engagement from potential victims. Victims will shy away, recoil into themselves and want to hide from the world. They will berate themselves for foolishly believing, if just for a few days, that a perpetrator would change their behaviour. The victim will be losing hope.

Valentine’s is a vulnerable time for victims of domestic violence. But we can all make a difference by listening and believing when victims disclose. Restoring hope that is currently beaten both physically and emotionally is essential to surviving.

Useful contact numbers and websites to offer patients

National Domestic Violence helpline: ‪0808 2000 247

Men's Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

Broken Rainbow: ‪0300 999 5428

About the author

Amanda BurstonAmanda Burston is major trauma co-ordinator in the emergency department at Royal Stoke University Hospital and RCNi Nurse of the Year 2015.

You can find out more about the RCNi Nurse Awards here.

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