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Doctor Puts Hidden Message For Women Suffering Domestic Abuse In Clinic Stirrups

Emily Brown


Doctor Puts Hidden Message For Women Suffering Domestic Abuse In Clinic StirrupsShutterstock (Stock Image)

Staff at a sexual health facility in Canada came up with an innovative way to help domestic abuse survivors without alerting their partners.

Survivors of domestic abuse may have limited opportunities to attempt to get help, due to a partner’s over-controlling, possessive nature or because they feel too threatened by their abuser to speak out.


In an effort to give female survivors an outlet to share their concerns, staff at a sexual health facility decided to write a message that would be only visible to visiting women.

One of the facility’s patients strongly commended the staff’s approach on Twitter, explaining she had seen the message during a visit to her OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynaecologist) while she was pregnant.

Speaking to UNILAD, the woman explained the note was written on the stirrups in which women put their feet while being examined, meaning it only became visible when the doctor lifted them in preparation for use.


Anyone accompanying the patient was encouraged to sit in a chair which had been specifically placed across the room, meaning the message remained invisible to them.

The stirrups were covered in fabric, with the message split across each side.

The left foot cover read:


Feel unsafe and need to talk to me alone?

The right continued:

Take sample jar with red lid and I’ll ask your companion to leave.

Once the examination was over, the doctor instructed women to take a sample jar with them for their next visit. A shelf beside the examination table was fully stocked with sample jars, some of which had black lids and some of which had red.


The system allowed a foolproof way for patients to subtly indicate they were in need of help without alerting their partner, meaning the doctor would be able to step in and offer the necessary advice and assistance.

Holding handsPexels

After seeing the message, the Twitter user asked her doctor how often women had put it to use and learned earlier the same day a woman had picked up a red jar after suffering abuse from her husband.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, coercive control, psychological or emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse, financial or economic abuse, harassment and stalking, and online or digital abuse.


Women’s Aid report domestic abuse is very common, though it is difficult to accurately quantify because it is a ‘largely hidden crime’ that often takes place in the home. Data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) estimates 1.3 million women experienced some form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018.

A similar subtle notice was posted by Twitter user Aidan Baron, who shared a picture taken in another medical facility.

A notice instructed patients to put their initials on the container they’d be handing back to the nurse, though they were advised to write their name in red if they were ‘experiencing intimate partner violence, domestic violence or anything else [they] wish to discuss in confidence with [their] provider’.

Helplines, online chats and forums are available to domestic abuse survivors, but subtle messages like the ones presented in these medical facilities can offer another chance for women to speak to someone trustworthy about their situation.

The idea is a brilliant one which should definitely be taken on board by others.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Do not suffer in silence.

Topics: Life, Canada, domestic abuse, Relationships, Sexual abuse


Aidan Baron/Twitter and 1 other
  1. Aidan Baron/Twitter


  2. Women's Aid

    How common is domestic abuse?

Emily Brown
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