Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe women's opinions and policy preferences concerning domestic violence screening and mandatory reporting.
Methods: This case-control study included 202 abused women and 240 randomly selected non-abused women recruited from a large metropolitan health maintenance organization who were interviewed by telephone. Of these women, 46.6% had a college degree, 53.4% were white, and 60% had a household income of $50,000 or more.
Results: Forty-eight percent of the sample agreed that health care providers should routinely screen all women, with abused women 1.5 times more likely than non-abused women to support this policy. For mandatory reporting, 48% preferred that it be the woman's decision to report abuse to the police. Women thought it would be easier for abused women to get help with routine screening (86%) and mandatory reporting (73%), although concerns were raised about increased risk of abuse with both screening (43%) and reporting (52%) policies. Two thirds of the sample thought women would be less likely to tell their health care providers about abuse under a mandatory reporting policy. Interventions offered in managed care settings that would be well received, according to the women in this study, include counseling services, shelters, and confidential hotlines.
Conclusions: Women expressed fears and concerns about negative consequences of routine screening and, even more so, for mandatory reporting. Domestic violence policies and protocols need to address the safety, autonomy, and confidentiality issues that concern women.