Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Questions for medical professionals

Last edited: March 01, 2011

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Medical professionals can provide information about the nature and prevalence of violence against women and girls. They can describe typical cases and reactions of women and girls to the violence. Medical professionals may also be able to provide information about the response of the police and their willingness to investigate domestic abuse. Monitors should obtain information from emergency room doctors, general practitioners, and forensic doctors.  See below for specific questions for forensic doctors.


1. Can you describe briefly your work and area of responsibility?

2. Do you treat victims who sustain injuries as a result of violence in the home?  Can you estimate the number of domestic violence victims you see per day, per week, per month? Of all the injuries you see in your clinic in one month, what percent would you say are the result of domestic violence?

3. Can you describe the ways in which victims of violence in the home typically access medical services at your facility?

4. What are your primary concerns in serving these women?

5. How is your hospital or clinic principally funded?  Do patients pay for treatment?

6. Do you receive funding for programs to serve women who experience violence in the home? If yes, what kinds of programs?


7. Does your health care facility have policies and procedures in place about treating victims who experience violence in the home by a husband/boyfriend? (If so, ask for a copy)  What are they? Do you think they are used consistently? Do you have policies regarding the gender of the health care provider in cases involving this type of violence?

8. Do you see injuries that you suspect are the result of violence in the home,   but are explained by the patient by another reason?  How many of these cases do you see?  Could you describe the type of injuries you see in patients you identify as victims of domestic violence? Typically, how does the woman explain her injuries?  How do you handle these cases? How many of these injuries are fatal?

9. Do you typically ask patients if they experience violence in their home by husbands/boyfriends? If so, when do you ask about violence in the home?

10. If a woman tells you that her injuries are the result of violence in the home by her husband/boyfriend, what do you do? Do you document the injuries in a particular way? Do you refer her to other services? Do you recommend follow-up medical care?

11. Do you commonly see victims of domestic violence more than once for injuries inflicted by their spouse or partner? How are these cases generally documented and catalogued in medical records?

12. What are common characteristics you see in victims of domestic violence?

13. Are you required to report cases of violence by a husband/partner? If so, in   what circumstances? To whom?

14.  Are you required to keep any official statistics on the number of domestic violence cases you see?

15. Are there unique challenges that face women who are victims of violence in the home depending on whether they live in rural or urban areas? 

16. Have you found that victims of domestic violence are generally willing to discuss the circumstances surrounding their injuries? What are these patients’ primary hesitations/concerns, if any, in speaking with you regarding violence in the home?

17.  Do patients who have been victims of domestic violence ever request assistance other than medical treatment?  What type of assistance?

18. Do you know of any services that may be available to them? Do you provide this information to them?  Are they open to receiving information from health providers?  Do they seek information about assistance from you?  What kinds of information are they most interested in receiving? Medical/health? Legal? Social service? Public aid or assistance? 

19. Are patients who have been victims of domestic violence treated for mental health problems?  Do you prescribe drugs to treat mental health problems?

20. How would you describe the level of coordination between your hospital or clinic and community groups, legal professionals, or the government?

21. Who are your allies in the community, in terms of issues that are of concern to   women victims of violence in the home?  How do you collaborate with these allies?

22. Can you describe your relationship or interaction with police or other legal personnel with regard to women who are victims of violence in the home? Are there specific policies that direct or govern these interactions? (If so, obtain copy.)

23. Are you aware of any laws that dictate your responsibility as a health professional with regard to cases of violence in the home? If so, what are these? Are there polices that dictate this responsibility? (If so, obtain copy.)



24. Have you or your staff received any training related to documenting, for legal purposes, injuries that are the result of violence in the home? What kind of training?

25. Have you or your staff participated in training specific to the screening, treatment, and documentation of injuries resulting from violence in the home?



      26. Can you provide a specific example or story of a patient’s circumstances?

      27. Can you recommend other individuals or organizations to speak with?

     28. Are there doctors, nurses, and other employees in the emergency room that we can      speak with? Other hospital employees?

     29. If there were anything that should be changed to improve the medical services provided to battered women, what would that be?

     30. Is there anything else you think we should know?


Questions for forensic doctors

Many countries require women to have their injuries documented by a forensic doctor to be used as evidence in court. Problems arise with this system because the doctors are generally asked to grade injuries into legal categories that determine the potential remedies available to the victim of violence.  In domestic violence cases, doctors may ask questions about the assault and place their own value judgment on the situation.  For example, if a doctor feels that a woman provoked the assault, the doctor may grade the assault lower than the actual injuries warrant.  Forensic doctors can provide very useful information about the legal system and how the doctors interact with courts. The following are suggested questions for forensic doctors:

  1. How many patients do you see per day?
  2. How many of these cases involve allegations of domestic assault?
  3. What is the purpose of an assault victim seeing a forensic doctor?
  4. Describe how the injuries are documented.
  5. Do you discuss the circumstances surrounding the injury?
  6. Are women victims of domestic violence generally willing to discuss their abuse?
  7. Do you handle domestic assault cases differently than you would a stranger assault?
  8. Do you take into account the woman’s behavior during the incident when filling out any part of the medical certificate?