Violence against women: provider barriers to intervention in emergency departments

Acad Emerg Med. 1997 Apr;4(4):297-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1997.tb03552.x.


Objective: To determine: 1) provider behavior in screening for domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA); 2) provider training in DV and SA; 3) provider knowledge of available protocols for DV and SA; and 4) provider perception of barriers to intervention.

Methods: Anonymous, structured surveys were distributed to physicians, nurses, and social workers at an adult ED trauma center, an affiliated pediatric ED, and a women's urgent care center between July and September 1995.

Results: Of 207 staff members (59%) responding, 54% and 68% indicated that they never/rarely screen for DV or SA, respectively. Thirty-five percent had received no DV training and 27% had received no SA training. Thirty-one percent of the staff had knowledge of existing protocols for DV and 63% had knowledge of existing protocols for SA. Providers trained in DV were more likely to screen for DV (RR 1.5, 95% CI 1.27-1.92, p < or = 0.001) and SA (RR 1.49, 95% CI 1.24-1.79, p < or = 0.0018), and providers trained in SA were more likely to screen for SA (RR 1.32, 95% CI 1.13-1.54, p = 0.0019) and DV (RR 1.35, 95% CI 1.13-1.60, p = 0.0007). Barriers that the majority of staff experienced in the care of DV/SA victims included: frustration that the victim would return to an abusive partner, concerns about misdiagnosis, lack of time, personal discomfort, reluctance to intrude into familial privacy, and lack of 24-hour social service support.

Conclusion: Providers surveyed had received little training in and rarely screen for violence, and there are a range of personal and institutional barriers impeding intervention with victims of SA and DV. Institutional changes to enhance training and support providers working in the front line of this epidemic may improve services for victims of violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Battered Women*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role
  • Rape / diagnosis*
  • Risk
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence
  • Women's Health