Domestic Abuse Guidelines for Health Care Professionals

Physicians and other health care professionals are well positioned to respond to cases of domestic violence because of their consistent relationship with patients and the trust that the patients often have in their doctors. This trusting relationship often makes 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.

Violence occurs more frequently in the home than anywhere else in society. In fact, domestic abuse accounts for one-half of all serious injuries presented to hospital emergency rooms. Battered women may not disclose abuse because they are ashamed and afraid of retaliation. Please inform these women 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 young adults and adult women for 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 written description — that are caused by abuse and record the patient's written testimony about how the injuries occurred
  • 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 her develop an escape plan in case the violence escalates
  • Encourage colleagues to enact similar procedures; if a patient gives her permission, collaborate with them to develop a coordinated care strategy for her
  • Screen children for domestic violence; those who have developmental delays may be experiencing the trauma of witnessing domestic violence

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 800-810-7444.

Outside New York City 
For the hot line number of your local domestic violence program, call the New York State Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-942-6906. The Hearing Impaired 24-Hour Hotline is 711.

For a listing of domestic violence hot lines by county, go to the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence website: New York State Domestic Violence Programs County Listing.

Links to additional resources available to victims of Domestic Abuse