Domestic Violence: Nurses Making a Difference

Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives, an online exhibit by the National Library of Medicine, explores the role of nurse activists in creating awareness of domestic violence as a medical, nursing, and public health issue. Narrative and digital images depict the history of the anti-domestic violence movement in the United States, early research published by nurses on this topic, and materials used to create awareness of domestic violence and provide referral information to victims of abuse. A digital gallery allows viewers to watch videos created during the 1980’s and 1990’s to instruct physicians and nurses in techniques for screening, intervention, and referral for domestic abuse. The education section of the exhibit contains extensive teaching materials suitable for undergraduate and graduate-level courses, as well as lesson plans for students in grades seven through twelve.

Almost as interesting as the exhibit itself is its backstory. The National Library of Medicine typically creates exhibitions to showcase materials already in the library’s collections. However, when initially approached about creating an exhibit on domestic violence, NLM determined that it had an inadequate number of resources on this topic. A three-year collaborative effort between NLM, nurses who played critical early roles in the anti-domestic violence movement, and Johns Hopkins Medical Institution, led to the creation of a manuscript collection that now resides in NLM’s History of Medicine Division. That collection, “representing a significant national movement within the medical profession” (NLM in Focus, Oct 29 2015), serves as the basis of the current exhibit.

~Mary Lou Klem