Intended for healthcare professionals


Responding to domestic violence in primary care

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 07 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e757
  1. Ann Taket, professor
  1. 1School of Health and Social Development, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia
  1. ann.taket{at}

We know more about what works but questions remain

The recent publication of findings from the first randomised controlled trial in the United Kingdom on domestic violence marks a suitable opportunity to take stock of what we know about responding to domestic violence in primary care.1 Abuse against women by intimate partners (intimate partner violence; IPV) is a major public health problem worldwide.2 More than one in four women experience IPV at some time in their lives,3 4 and these women and their children have an increased risk of severe short term and long term health consequences, both physical and mental.4 The social and economic costs of IPV are enormous; in 2008 the annual cost of IPV in the UK was estimated to be £15 730m (€18 720m; $24 740).5

The primary care response to women who experience IPV is important, not least because a meta-analysis of qualitative studies has highlighted that such women see healthcare professionals as potential sources of support.6 Although several recently published randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews have advanced our knowledge about effective responses in primary care, our understanding of how best to manage this complex and challenging problem remains incomplete.

Whether sufficient evidence exists to recommend screening for IPV in healthcare settings is debateable.7 …

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