Battered Women and Mandatory Medical Reporting Laws: Perceptions and the Influence of Demographic and Situational Characteristics

Alisa Smith, Ramapo College
Kristin Parsons Winokur, Florida State University/

Several states have passed laws that require medical personnel (doctors and nurses) to report injuries they suspect are the result of domestic violence to the police. Few studies have explored the varying perceptions of battered women concerning the approval, perceived benefit and impact on seeking medical care of these policies. This study demonstrates that battered women's views on mandatory medical reporting laws are influenced by demographic characteristics and situational circumstances. In other words, these universal policies that fail to consider the unique situations of battered women may result in a decreased likelihood of seeking medical care. In light of these findings, policy-makers should consider modifications to mandatory reporting laws that require the consultation and consent of battered women along with other "non-law enforcement" measures to address domestic violence.

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Updated 05/20/2006