Healthcare-Based Domestic Violence Programs

Woman in counseling

Most women visit health care providers for routine medical care, and victims of domestic violence (DV) also see health care providers for treatment of their injuries. This puts health care providers in a unique position to help victims of abuse and provide them with referrals and support. The healthcare-based DV model approach, applicable to hospitals and clinical settings, enables the staff of a health care institution in conjunction with local DV and sexual assault (SA) programs to respond in a comprehensive manner. By networking with local DV and SA advocacy programs, providers can help their patients access essential services including safety planning, housing, peer support and counseling, and legal options that can be life saving.

Health care providers are an essential link in the coordinated effort to break the cycle of violence and build a healthy community. Identifying and responding to DV in health care settings can make a tremendous difference for patients’ physical health, mental health, safety, and quality of life. Although women are disproportionately impacted by DV, anyone can be a victim regardless of sex/gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, age, income, or level of education. Victims of domestic violence turn to health care providers by the thousands every day seeking:

  • treatment for acute injuries;
  • other associated physical and mental health conditions;
  • support;
  • information and referrals.

Research demonstrates the negative impact of DV on health, and routine inquiry and assessment can result in early identification of victims of DV. Asking about DV and having resources and referral materials in health settings sends a prevention message that domestic violence is unacceptable and has serious and long-term health consequences. It also communicates to patients that providers are a resource and source of help for patients who are abused.

Assessment for exposure to lifetime abuse facilitates:

  • primary prevention and early intervention to end the cycle of violence;
  • validation of patients’ experiences;
  • provision of information about domestic violence, available resources and safety options;
  • identification of appropriate referrals to services;
  • improved health and quality of life.

When health care providers identify past or present domestic violence in their patients, they will benefit from a better understanding of the root cause of their patients’ health concerns such as chronic pain, depression, obstetric complications, STIs, poorly controlled chronic conditions, substance abuse, and other health problems.


1) Learn How to Create a Healthcare-based Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program(PDF).

2) Download the Resource List (PDF).

3) View the IPV Screening and Counseling Toolkit.

4) View a list of healthcare-based DV programs.

5) Order (S&H) educational and clinical tools for providers and patients from our online store.

6) Join our free Webinars.

7) Sign up for our newsletter.

8) Download the presentation slides from the 2012 National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence (NCHDV) on the topic of healthcare-based DV programs.