Domestic Abuse Guidelines for Health Care Professionals
Physicians and other health care professionals are well-positioned to respond to cases of domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) because of their relationship with patients and the trust that the patients often have in their doctors. This trusting relationship can make it easier to identify and document a pattern of abuse. However, doctors have traditionally been reluctant to address domestic violence in their practices, feeling it was intrusive to question their patients about their private lives.
Domestic violence is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior and only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.1 Battered individuals may not disclose abuse because they are ashamed and afraid of retaliation. Please inform them that domestic abuse is against the law. While domestic abuse is widespread, it is also preventable.
What Health Care Professionals Can Do:
- Routinely screen all adults for domestic violence. Providers should also screen children for domestic violence; those who have developmental delays may be experiencing the trauma of witnessing domestic violence.
- Indicate to patients that you are willing to discuss domestic violence, what is being done to them is illegal, you do not blame them for being abused, and you can help.
- Document injuries — through photographs and a written description — that are caused by abuse and record the patient’s verbal or written testimony about how the injuries occurred. Your documented notes should remain objective with neutral language and clear observations.
- Maintain secure chart storage to ensure that the information in the patient’s chart is kept confidential.
- Give patients the toll-free phone numbers and locations of domestic violence organizations in the area, as well as other resources that could help domestic violence victims.
- Assess patient’s safety and help them develop an escape plan in case the violence escalates.
- Encourage colleagues to enact similar procedures; if a patient gives their permission, collaborate with them to develop a coordinated care strategy.
- Screening tools are available on the CDC website.
New York State Toll-Free Domestic Abuse Hotlines
Every county in New York State has at least one agency specifically designed to provide services for individuals affected by domestic violence and their children. These programs offer emergency 24-hour hot lines, information and referrals, education, support groups, advocacy, and accompaniment. Your local hotline can provide you with information on domestic violence resources in your community. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
In New York City (Five Boroughs)
New York City’s Domestic Violence Hotline provides safety planning, referrals and connections to emergency housing for victims of domestic violence. This assistance is available anytime to both male and female victims. The hot line provides assistance in over 150 languages.
Call 800-621-HOPE (800-621-4673) for the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline or call 311 and ask for the Domestic Violence Hotline. The Hearing Impaired 24-Hour Hotline is 866-604-5350.
For resources in LGBTQ+ transgender communities in NYC, call/text the Anti-Violence Project at 212-714-1141. They have also partnered with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs to create national advocacy for local LGBTQ communities.
Outside New York City
For the hotline number of your local domestic violence program, call the New York State Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-942-6906, or text 844-997-2121. The Hearing Impaired 24-Hour Hotline is 800-942-6906.
For a listing of domestic violence hot lines by county, go to the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.
Links to additional resources available to victims of domestic abuse:
- Victim Services Programs
- The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
- Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence