If you want to learn more...
Step One: Get Acquainted with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
* Survivor stories are the most powerful way to understand what IPV is and how it impacts health and well-being. We urge you to start here.
Step Two: Learn how to screen, assess and intervene
Step Three: Training
Step Four: Learn About Effects of IPV on Health Care Providers
Step Five: Make sure you understand the Mandatory Reporting Laws of your state and local police procedures
All States: When to Report IPV
Laws regarding mandatory reporting of IPV vary from state to state. BEFORE inquiring about IPV it is important that you learn the details about your state’s mandatory reporting laws for both intimate partner violence, child abuse and elder abuse. You may consult with your state’s Bar Association for the most up to date information or use a search engine to search for your state and “domestic violence laws.”
For summary information and articles on IPV laws for all states prepared by the Family Violence Prevention Fund please click here.
To find summaries of all child abuse reporting laws, please click here.
To find summaries of elder abuse reporting laws, please click here.
In California: When to Report IPV
In California, providers who are providing medical treatment for a physical condition to a patient suffering from an injury known or suspected to have been inflicted by another person is required to report the known or suspected assault to the local police authorities. For instructions regarding this law, please see summary instructions prepared for the FVPF.
Familiarize Yourself with Local Reporting Guidelines in California
In California, it is very important to understand that both the specific procedures for reporting IPV and the police protocol and response to that report vary from county to county. Providers should familiarize themselves with the policies and procedures of law enforcement in their practicing county. Providers and health care institutions should work with law enforcement authorities to establish protocols regarding the response to mandatory health care reports that maximize safety and minimize risk for victims of IPV.
In California, providers should understand that the Mandatory Health Care Report (initiated by a health care provider) is different from an official police report that a victim would make directly to police. If a victim of IPV would like emergency assistance, call 911 immediately. If a victim of IPV would like to file a police report about the IPV and is not in acute danger, call police dispatch. If the victim of IPV agrees, it is helpful for someone from the health care team to stay with the patient and provide advocacy and support during the report to police.
Frequently Asked Questions: San Francisco County only
The questions below apply to San Francisco County only. Comments taken from “Common Questions and Answers about Mandatory Reporting Requirements for SF Health Providers,” by Ariella Hyman of Bay Area Legal Aid.
For a one page summary of Mandatory Reporting in San Francisco County, see LEAP's Mandatory Reporting Flow Sheet.
If a battered patient does not want to report, do I still have to make one?
Legally, you are required to report whether or not the patient consents to a report, even though there might be countervailing ethical principles. You should find out why the patient does not want the report made, and advocate on behalf of his or her needs and concerns with the authorities.
How do I properly file a health practitioner report?
Telephone the SF Police Department at 415 553-9220 as soon as possible and leave a voice message. Document in the medical record that a call was made. Within 48 hours, mail the confidential mandatory health care reporting form to:
San Francisco Police Department
Domestic Violence Unit
850 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
What happens when I file a report?
Your report is kept on file at the Domestic Violence Unit at the police department. According to current police dept practices, there will be no police follow up to your report. (There are occasional exceptions as when police determine that the perpetrator is a known felon with outstanding arrest warrant). If the provider requests a follow up to the mandatory health report, in San Francisco, an IPV advocate (rather than the police) will contact the patient.
The police response to the Mandatory Health Care Report in SF may vary if the report is not filed as instructed above with the Domestic Violence Unit. In this case, police intervention may occur regardless of patient wishes. If your patient would like police intervention or follow up, you must call 911 for emergencies and 415 553-0123 to make an official police report. An officer will come to your location to make the report. Remember that your mandatory health practitioner report is not an official police report. Depending on the circumstances, the police report may lead to arrest, prosecution and/or incarceration.
Can reporting result in negative repercussions for my patient?
Providers should be aware of the potential harmful consequences mandatory reporting presents for battered patients. Reporting may put battered patients at risk for retaliation if police intervene against patient’s wishes. It may deter patients from seeking health care or being candid with their clinicians about the causes of their injuries.
Reporting without patient consent infringes on personal autonomy and may also re-victimize patients by controlling their life decisions. The abrogation of provider patient confidentiality that may result from reporting is also harmful and may undermine the patient’s trust in their providers. In San Francisco, many of these concerns may be alleviated as the police response is largely dictated by the request of the providers/patients.