This study was undertaken to determine whether nurses' experiences of domestic violence (DV) influence their management of DV and rape cases. In total, 212 nurses were interviewed in two South African health districts using a standardized questionnaire. We measured sociodemographic characteristics, quality of care in the areas of rape and DV management, and experiences of DV in their own lives and amongst family and friends. A total of 39% nurses reported having experienced either physical or emotional abuse themselves and 40.6% amongst family and friends. Having personally experienced DV had no influence on DV identification and management. Those with experience from friends and family were more likely to have provided better care for patients who presented after DV (mean quality of care score = 23.1), while nurses who reported no personal experience of DV, either in their own lives or among family and friends, had a lower quality of care score of 19.8 (P = 0.02). Having ever intervened in a domestic dispute was associated with higher quality of care (P < 0.001). This suggests that the greater degree to which nurses identify with DV and intervene, the more likely they are to provide higher quality of care. Training of nurses in DV must try to build such empathy.