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Domestic abuse survivor Leah shares her story and explains how dentists can spot the signs of abuse and save lives

At Glow, we’re on a mission to end relationship abuse.

To achieve this, we’re bringing education and prevention together to end abuse at the source and make a lasting impact. We deliver domestic abuse awareness training sessions to help people understand abuse and how to spot it in their everyday lives.

As part of this, our specialist staff are currently working with dental teams. We’re teaching them how to identify the signs of abuse and how to safely respond to disclosures from their patients.

Around 75% of injuries inflicted through domestic abuse affect the head and neck, areas which dentists see while doing routine check-ups. This means that dentists, dental nurses and hygienists are in a unique position when it comes to spotting the signs of abuse.

Patients often attend the same practice for many years, so reception staff can notice changes in behaviour over a period of time.

We’re helping the whole dental team recognise these signs, ‘ask the question’ if they are worried about a patient and safely respond to disclosures with our professionals training.

All training sessions are delivered by specialist trainers with knowledge and experience of working with victims and perpetrators of abusive behaviour.

When Leah* experienced domestic abuse, she didn’t want to speak to anyone. She held her emotions in and became closed off to everyone around her.

She had been attending the same dental practice for over a decade. Her dentist noticed a change in her behaviour but didn’t know what to say.  

Leah has shared her story with us to show other dental professionals how important it is to speak up if you notice a change in your patient.

She said: “I’d been going to my dentist for about twelve, maybe thirteen years.  

“I used to be this chatty, bubbly person. I could just sit and talk to anybody about anything.

“When I started experiencing abuse, I refused to speak. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about anything. I held everything in.

“I was also scared all the time – I actually started to flinch. My partner had never laid hands on me physically, but I’d flinch because he had squared up so many times, right in my face.

“When I told my dentist what was going on, she said that she knew there was something wrong. She said she had a feeling, but just didn’t know how to ask me and didn’t want to offend me.

“My advice to dental teams would be don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t feel like you’re going to make yourself look stupid by asking somebody a question.

“You never know, it could save somebody’s life.”

Hayley Ferns, Team Leader at Glow, said: “Staff at a dental practice will often form long-lasting relationships with patients. This is because many of them will attend the same practice for several years.

“This also means that the whole dental team are in a really unique position to spot domestic abuse and respond to disclosures.

“Many domestic abuse injuries occur to the head and neck, areas that dentists see up close during routine check-ups.

“Changes in behaviour can also be noticed by dental nurses, hygienists and reception staff.

“At Glow, we’re really proud to deliver this training to so many dental professionals. We can already see the difference it is making.

“Every victim of domestic abuse deserves the right response at the right time, to keep them safe. With the right information and tools, we know that dentists will be better equipped to ‘ask the question’ and signpost patients to support.”

If you’re interested in a domestic abuse training course for your dental practice, please email stepstosafety@findtheglow.org.uk.

*name changed to protect identity.

Need someone to talk to or know someone who does?

If you are in immediate danger please call 999

Get in touch 0330 0945 559

CALL 0330 094 5559, OR 999 IN AN EMERGENCY

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