• domestic violence;
  • drug dependency;
  • family violence;
  • obstetric care;
  • policy research;
  • screening


Routine screening of women for intimate partner violence (IPV) has been introduced in many health settings to improve identification and responsiveness to hidden abuse. This cross-sectional study aimed to understand more about how women use screening programmes to disclose and access information and services. It follows women screened in ten Australian health care settings, covering antenatal, drug and alcohol and mental health services. Two samples of women were surveyed between March 2007 and July 2008; those who reported abuse during screening 6 months previously (122) and those who did not report abuse at that time (241). Twenty-three per cent (27/120) of women who reported abuse on screening were revealing this for the first time to any other person. Of those who screened negative, 14% (34/240) had experienced recent or current abuse, but chose not to disclose this when screened. The main reasons for not telling were: not considering the abuse serious enough, fear of the offender finding out and not feeling comfortable with the health worker. Just over half of both the positive and negative screened groups received written information about IPV and 35% of the positive group accessed further services. The findings highlight the fact that much abuse remains hidden and that active efforts are required to make it possible for women to talk about their experiences and seek help. Screening programmes, particularly those with established protocols for asking and referral, offer opportunities for women to disclose abuse and receive further intervention.