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Mandatory reporting of domestic violence injuries to the police: what do emergency department patients think?



Mandatory reporting of domestic violence injuries to the police: what do emergency department patients think?



JAMA 286(5): 580-583



Laws requiring mandatory reporting of domestic violence to police exist in 4 states. Controversy exists about the risks and benefits of such laws. To examine attitudes of female emergency department patients toward mandatory reporting of domestic violence injuries to police and how these attitudes may differ by abuse status. Cross-sectional survey conducted in 1996 of 1218 women patients (72.8% response rate) in 12 emergency departments in California (a state with a mandatory reporting law) and Pennsylvania (without such a law). Opposition to mandatory reporting to police and the characteristics associated with this belief. Twelve percent of respondents (n = 140) reported physical or sexual abuse within the past year by a current or former partner. Of abused women, 55.7% supported mandatory reporting and 44.3% opposed mandatory reporting (7.9% preferred that physicians never report abuse to police and 36.4% preferred physicians report only with patient consent). Among nonabused women, 70.7% (n = 728) supported mandatory reporting and 29.3% opposed mandatory reporting. Patients currently seeing/living with partners (odds ratio [OR], 1.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-2.0), non-English speakers (OR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.4-3.0), and those who had experienced physical or sexual abuse within the last year (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.6-2.9) had higher odds of opposing mandatory reporting of domestic violence injuries. There were no differences in attitudes by location (California vs Pennsylvania). The efficacy of mandatory reporting of domestic violence to police should be further assessed, and policymakers should consider options that include consent of patients before wider implementation.

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Accession: 046619601

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PMID: 11476660


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