Screening women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings

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There is insufficient evidence to recommend asking all women about abuse in healthcare settings.

Some governments and professional organizations recommend screening all women for intimate partner violence rather than asking only women with symptoms. This review evaluates the effectiveness and safety of screening for intimate partner violence conducted within healthcare settings on identification, referral, and re-exposure to violence, and health outcomes for women. Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria and included 14,959 women who had agreed to be in those studies. The studies showed a mismatch between the increased numbers of women picked up through screening by healthcare professionals and the high numbers of women attending healthcare settings actually affected by domestic violence. There was no evidence of an effect for other outcomes (referral, re‐exposure to violence, health measures, harm arising from screening). Thus, while screening increases identification, there is insufficient evidence to justify screening in healthcare settings. More evidence is warranted to show if screening actually increases referring and women’s engagement with support services, and/or reduces violence and positively impacts on their health and wellbeing.

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