April 21, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 16



Of Note



Nursing seminar focuses on family violence prevention

Violence prevention begins with each one of us, said Dr. Margaret Brackley, an expert in domestic violence and the featured speaker at the latest Seminar Series on Health sponsored by the School of Nursing and the Nursing Advisory Council. Dr. Brackley, associate professor in the Department of Chronic Nursing Care, said that emphasizing peace over violence in everyday life will help bring an end to violence in our homes. "We not only need to talk about peace, we need to practice it," she said. "Prevention starts at a level that affects all of us."

Family violence is believed to be the most common, yet least reported, crime in the country. Verbal abuse is particularly prevalent. "In this society, people use abusive language," Dr. Brackley said. "We are so tolerant of verbal abuse that it isn't even considered abusive, but it can cause great harm. Lower the volume, and try not to participate in it."

The statistics are frightening: Domestic violence is the number-one cause of emergency room visits by women nationwide; four women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends; 4 million women are physically abused by their partners each year.

In San Antonio, a recent study found that 60 percent of women seen throughout the University Health System had a lifelong history of victimization and 20 percent of the women were currently involved in an abusive relationship.

"Family violence affects all of us," Dr. Brackley said. "As a community we pay the price."

Children who grow up in abusive homes often grow up to be abusers themselves, perpetuating the cycle of violence. Dr. Brackley shared some ways in which we can disrupt the pattern: Foster a sense of empathy in your children, show respect for others yourself, teach them how to resolve issues without violence, honor people's differences and build children's self-esteem early in their lives.

"Embrace differences and recognize that violence is never OK," she concluded.

HSC researchers form Center for Violence Prevention

"Family violence ranks with heart disease and cancer as a health issue," says Dr. Margaret Brackley, associate professor in the Department of Chronic Nursing. "The reduction of violence has become one of the nation's major public health goals."

A psychiatric nurse, Dr. Brackley is an expert on the cost to the individual and to society of widespread violence. She recently was selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Mental Health Services as a member of the Expert Panel to develop Best Practices Guidelines for Detection and Treatment of Domestic Violence.

Dr. Brackley and assistant professor Yolanda Davila are co-directors of the Nursing School's newly formed Center for Violence Prevention. The center is designed to advance knowledge on violence-related health needs in South Texas. It promotes and supports violence-related research, education and clinical practice.

The Center's objectives include:

  • establishing an integrated database on violence in South Texas
  • serving as a clearinghouse for information and resources related to violence
  • developing research-based policies and procedures for violence prevention
  • providing a forum for multidisciplinary collaboration among faculty and students with expertise and/or interest in violence-related topics, and
  • creating linkages with community agencies on violence-related concerns

"The center will provide students and faculty

with the opportunity to participate in cutting edge, state-of-the-art violence research, education and practice," said Dr. Brackley. "A number of nursing faculty already are engaged in studying various aspects of violence. The center presents new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborative work and community partnerships."

Dr. Brackley is the principal investigator of a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mount a coordinated community response to prevent intimate partner violence in San Antonio and Bexar County. This major grant is the extension of a project established several years ago by Dr. Joe Thornton, psychiatry, at University Hospital. San Antonio is one of 10 U.S. cities to receive this federal funding.

Called the "San Antonio SAFE Family Project," its collaborators include the Health Science Center, University Health System, Family Violence Prevention Services, P.E.A.C.E. Initiative, Bexar County Justice Center, San Antonio Police Department, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and Community First.

"The goal is to share information and resources so we make genuine progress in eliminating family violence," said Dr. Brackley.

"Through data sharing across agencies, we can gather the evidence we need to make changes that will improve the lives of families living with violence. We hope that by showing program effectiveness in reducing violence, we can convince policy makers and funding entities to provide more resources for these endeavors."