Experiences of battered women in health care settings: a qualitative study

Women Health. 1996;24(3):1-17. doi: 10.1300/j013v24n03_01.


Interventions to help battered women seek and receive optimal health care must be informed by battered women's experiences in health care settings. In this study, we used a Systems Model to categorize the barriers battered women encounter in health care settings into patient, provider, and organizational levels. We conducted in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 31 battered women recruited by random digit dialing of households and by a publicity recruitment campaign. The data revealed that at the patient level, many women chose to conceal their abuse from their health care professionals, some fearing retaliation from their partners if they revealed the source of their injuries. At the provider level, the women perceived health care professionals to be disinterested or unsympathetic toward the needs of battered women, causing the women to feel ignored or trivialized. And at an organizational level, battered women believed that the structure of the health care system did not allow health care professionals enough time to deal with issues beyond treating their immediate presenting injuries. To ensure that battered women seek and receive optimal health care, multicomponent interventions should be designed to address the complex barriers at the three levels. We conclude by suggesting possible ways to help battered women get the tools they need to raise the issue of domestic violence with their health care professional. We also suggest ways to enable these professionals to identify battered women, validate their experiences, and provide appropriate referrals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • California
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Random Allocation
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology
  • Spouse Abuse / therapy*