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Keywords:

  • intimate partner violence;
  • New Zealand;
  • qualitative research;
  • women's health services

The identification of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women as a public health problem has led to routine health care site– based screening and brief intervention policies. However, there is a lack of evidence supporting the usefulness and safety of such policies. Our objective was to ascertain the acceptability, usefulness, and harm of a brief health care site– based screening intervention. In this qualitative study, semistructured interviews were conducted with 36 women several weeks after a standardized screening intervention in either an emergency department (adult and paediatric) or primary health care setting. The majority of women (97%) welcomed the IPV screening intervention and perceived it as nonthreatening and safe. The women reported no increased risk of harm because of the screening. The responses showed that the intervention had a therapeutic and educational quality, and the attitude and approach of the person asking the intervention questions was critical to a positive outcome. Women without a history of violence cautioned that IPV screening may be offensive to those who are abused, whereas those who reported abuse thought IPV screening was essential “to stop it [from] happening.” Our findings challenge concerns that IPV screening is offensive to women and increases their potential for danger. Participants were appreciative of the opportunity to tell their abuse stories in a safe and supportive context, and challenged the health care system to implement IPV screening, asking “What took you so long?”