October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) firmly believes that violence against women (VAW) is never acceptable. This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, OWH reiterates its commitment to raising awareness about VAW, the important role health care providers’ play of conducting screenings for domestic and interpersonal violence among women and adolescents, and health insurance coverage. If you are a domestic violence prevention advocate or are a woman-focused organization, OWH wants to remind you:

1.   Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship purposely hurts another person physically or emotionally. Domestic violence is also called intimate partner violence or interpersonal violence, because it often is caused by a husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. Women also can be abusers and abuse can occur whether or not people live under the same roof.

2.   People of all races, education levels, and ages experience domestic abuse.

3.   In an effort to prevent abuse and improve the health of women who have been abused, the Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover screenings and brief counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence without a copayment. Evidence shows that screenings and appropriate interventions by health care providers can improve the health of women who have been abused. 

4.   Domestic violence can no longer be considered a pre-existing condition by health insurers. 

5.   Survivors of domestic violence or spousal abandonment can use a permanent special enrollment period to enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period. This special enrollment period allows survivors to enroll separately from their abuser/abandoner, which may help them regain control of their medical lives. Dependents may qualify for coverage, too. Survivors no longer need to worry about being without health coverage, removing a possible barrier to leaving their abuser.

6.   There are ways to help a friend who is being abused. If someone is being abused, you can get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TDD).

For more information on screenings and counseling, please review the OWH Health Care Providers' Role in Screening and Counseling for Interpersonal and Domestic Violence fact sheet