Patient attitudes about mandatory reporting of domestic violence. Implications for health care professionals

West J Med. 1998 Dec;169(6):337-41.


As of January 1994, California physicians are required to report to police all patients who are suspected to be victims of domestic violence. This article describes the results from a focus group study of abused women (n = 51) that explored their experiences with and perspectives on medical care. The eight focus groups included two Latina (total n = 14), two Asian (total n = 14), two African-American (total n = 9), and two Caucasian (total n = 14) groups of women who had been the victims of domestic abuse within the previous 2 years. The women were recruited through community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. With regard to physician reporting of domestic violence to police, five themes were identified: fear of retaliation by the abuser, fear of family separation, mistrust of the legal system, desire for police protection, and preference for confidentiality and autonomy in the patient-health professional relationship. Our results indicate that mandatory reporting may pose a threat to the safety and well-being of abused women and may create barriers to their seeking help and communicating with health care professionals about domestic violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asia / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health* / ethnology
  • Black People
  • Black or African American
  • California
  • Communication
  • Confidentiality
  • Domestic Violence / ethnology
  • Domestic Violence / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Ethnicity
  • Family Relations
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Freedom
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Latin America / ethnology
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Police / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Safety
  • San Francisco
  • White People