Context Laws requiring mandatory reporting of domestic violence to police exist
in 4 states. Controversy exists about the risks and benefits of such laws.
Objective 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.
Design, Setting, and Participants 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).
Main Outcome Measures Opposition to mandatory reporting to police and the characteristics
associated with this belief.
Results 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).
Conclusions 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.