Emergency Departments: Screening for DV

In partnership with DC SAFE’s Lethality Assessment Project (LAP), Medstar Washington Hospital Center’s Emergency Room has signed on as one of the agencies in DC dedicated to providing services to victims of domestic violence who are in crisis. Doctors, nurses and advocates at DC SAFE have worked together to develop a screening tool that nurses can use to start a productive conversation with potential victims of family and intimate partner violence.

Emergency rooms can play a vital role in linking survivors to immediate crisis services, as ER staff are often at the front line, responding to folks coming in to receive medical attention due to injuries caused by physical assault. When someone comes in seeking emergency medical attention, healthcare providers in Washington Hospital Center’s Emergency Department take immediate steps to foster an environment where the patient is able to openly discuss any violence that they may be experiencing. If a patient chooses to disclose violence occurring at the hands of a family member or a partner, their nurse or doctor then can immediately place a call to SAFE’s On Call Advocacy Response Line, where the survivor can learn more about their options and access emergency services.



  • Approximately 37% of women seeking injury-related treatment in hospital emergency rooms were there because of injuries inflicted by a current or former spouse/partner (NNEDV’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet)
  • About half of all female victims of intimate violence report an injury of some type, and about 20 percent of them seek medical assistance (Domestic Violence Resource Center)
  • A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that nearly 80 percent of women who reported domestic assaults to the police visited an emergency room at least once during the four years after their assault, and “most of those sought ED care frequently – an average of seven times each.” However, “only 28 percent of the patients studied were ever identified as victims of abuse.” (Penn Medicine News Release)
  • “A study that examined 1997 – 2002 medical records of several groups of adult female patients of an HMO in Seattle found that women who are victims of physical or sexual domestic violence visit their doctors more often than other women. Annual health-care costs were significantly higher for the women who were victims of domestic violence. Their health-care costs averaged more than $5,000 per year, compared to about $3,400 for those in the second group and $2,400 for those in the third group.” (CAEPV)
  • Approximately 40-50% of female victims are physically injured when assaulted by their intimate partner, accounting for over 200,000 visits to the hospital emergency room each year. Only about 1 in 5 of domestic violence victims with physical injuries seek professional medical treatment. (DCCADV)
  • A recent study found that 44 percent of victims of domestic violence talked to someone about the abuse; 37 percent of those women talked to their health care provider.xxv Additionally, in four different studies of survivors of abuse, 70 percent to 81 percent of the patients studied reported that they would like their healthcare providers to ask them privately about intimate partner violence. (Futures Without Violence)
  • Research shows nearly half (44 percent) of women murdered by their intimate partner had visited an emergency department within two years of the homicide. (American College of Emergency Physicians)