Survivors of intimate partner violence speak out: trust in the patient-provider relationship

J Gen Intern Med. 2003 Aug;18(8):617-23. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21013.x.


Objective: To identify characteristics that facilitate trust in the patient-provider relationship among survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Design: Semistructured, open-ended interviews were conducted to elicit participants' beliefs and attitudes about trust in interactions with health care providers. Using grounded theory methods, the transcripts were analyzed for common themes. A community advisory group, composed of advocates, counselors and IPV survivors, helped interpret themes and interview excerpts. Together, key components of trust were identified.

Setting: Eastern Massachusetts.

Participants: Twenty-seven female survivors of IPV recruited from community-based IPV organizations.

Main results: Participants' ages ranged from 18 to 56 years, 36% were African American, 32% Hispanic, and 18% white. We identified 5 dimensions of provider behavior that were uniquely important to the development of trust for these IPV survivors: 1) communication about abuse: provider was willing to openly discuss abuse; 2) professional competency: provider asked about abuse when appropriate and was familiar with medical and social histories; 3) practice style: provider was consistently accessible, respected confidentiality, and shared decision making; 4) caring: provider demonstrated personal concern beyond biomedical role through nonjudgmental and compassionate gestures, empowering statements, and persistent, committed behaviors; 5) emotional equality: provider shared personal information and feelings and was perceived by the participant as a friend.

Conclusions: These IPV survivors identified dimensions of provider behavior that facilitate trust in their clinical relationship. Strengthening these provider behaviors may increase trust with patients and thus improve disclosure of and referral for IPV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Confidentiality / psychology
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Trust / psychology*