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

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

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, USA.


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.

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