Volume 94, Issue 65

Thursday, January 18, 2001


USC gets mixed reviews - Ad Hoc committee makes recommendations

T.O. Olympic bid gets debt support

Affiliates present "responsible" motion

Braun addresses performance of USC

New screening tool to detect abuse


Planet Me

New screening tool to detect abuse

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

Family physicians hoping to identify potential victims of abuse may gain a helping hand from the benefit of a new screening tool.

A study performed by Judith Brown, Barbara Lent, George Sas and Gail Schmidt, professors in the department of family medicine at Western, tested the Woman Abuse Screening Tool (WAST), which they developed to detect signs of female abuse. Their findings were published in the October issue of The Journal of Family Practice.

The WAST survey consists of eight brief questions, which range from queries about tension and negativity in a relationship, to direct questions concerning sexual and physical abuse, Brown said.

She said the researchers took a random sample of 20 London family physicians and had them test the survey on close to 300 female patients throughout the course of general appointments. "It did identify women who were at risk or being abused," Brown said.

"My hope is that [WAST] is picked up by family physicians, medical educators and all health care professionals," she said, adding the research her team conducted showed that both women and family practitioners felt comfortable with the WAST approach. "It's one small step in identifying a huge problem."

Phil Arnold, public education and communications co-ordinator for Changing Ways a men's awareness group that targets abuse, said he agreed the WAST system was beneficial, but noted the need for a similar system to help identify perpetrators of abuse.

"There are psychological and clinical signs that are associated with a perpetrator, including both personal and medical history," he added.

Megan Walker, executive director of the Battered Women's Advocacy Centre, said she did not support the WAST system. "The process is simple," she said. "It doesn't need to be a series of eight questions. It only needs to be one question: Are you abused?"

Walker said the WAST model relies on an anger-management view of abuse which is outdated, adding power and control are the proven factors behind an abusive mentality. "Twenty-five per cent of women are abused in our society," she said. "There aren't a large number of angry men in our community."

But Brown said the survey does in fact ask direct questions concerning emotional abuse and the circumstances which surround a relationship.

Lent, one of the developers of WAST, said she was a part of the Middlesex London Health Unit's task force that investigated the problem of women's abuse from a public health perspective.

She said the task force decided not to endorse the WAST system because they were hoping to implement a much broader system for screening abuse which could be used by family practitioners, emergency and specialty departments, as well as in home care service.

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