Australian Family Physician
Australian Family Physician


Volume 40, Issue 11, November 2011

Intimate partner violence Identification and response in general practice

Kelsey Hegarty Lorna O’Doherty
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Intimate partner violence is a common problem among women attending general practice, with around one in 10 women currently experiencing physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a partner. Abused women frequently present with physical and psychosocial issues. Yet intimate partner violence often remains concealed and addressing it poses challenges for the clinician and patient alike.
Although some of the general recommendations in this review may also apply to same-sex relationships and to women who abuse men, this article discusses identifying intimate partner violence in women who present to general practice.
Identifying intimate partner violence is important in clinical practice as it underlies many common physical and mental health presentations. Facilitating disclosure and responding effectively requires good communication skills. Safety assessment of women and their families, pinpointing level of readiness to contemplate action, and providing appropriate referral options and ongoing nonjudgmental support are elements of an effective response. General practitioners have the potential to identify women and support them safely on a pathway to recovery, thereby avoiding the long term impacts of intimate partner violence.

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