Domestic Family Violence

Approved by the ACEP Board of Directors October 2007
This policy, "Domestic Family Violence," replaces the following policies rescinded October 2007: "Child Abuse"; "Domestic Violence"; "Emergency Medicine and Domestic Violence"; "Management of Elder Abuse and Neglect"; "Support for Victims of Family Violence"; and "Mandatory Reporting of Domestic Violence to Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Agencies".

As an adjunct to this policy statement, ACEP's Public Health and Injury Prevention Committee developed a Policy Resource Education Paper (PREP) titled, "Domestic Family Violence." 

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) encourages emergency personnel to assess patients for family violence in all its forms, including that directed toward children, elders, intimate partners, and other family members. Such patients should be appropriately referred for help and detailed evaluation. Identification and assessment can be difficult as violence and maltreatment can encompass abuse in many different forms including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation and intimidation.

ACEP opposes mandatory reporting of domestic violence to the criminal justice system. Instead, ACEP encourages reporting of domestic violence to local social services, victims' services, the criminal justice system, or any other appropriate resource agency to provide confidential counseling and assistance, in accordance with the patient's wishes. In jurisdictions that have mandatory reporting requirements, persons reporting in good faith should be immune from liability for compliance.

ACEP recommends that:

  • Emergency personnel assess patients for intimate partner violence, child and elder maltreatment and neglect.
  • Emergency physicians are familiar with signs and symptoms of intimate partner violence, child and elder maltreatment and neglect.
  • Emergency medical services, medical schools, and emergency medicine residency curricula should include education and training in recognition, assessment and interventions in intimate partner violence, child and elder maltreatment and neglect.
  • Hospitals and emergency departments (EDs) encourage clinical and epidemiologic research regarding the incidence and prevalence of family violence as well as best practice approaches to detection, assessment and intervention for victims of family violence.
  • Hospitals and EDs are encouraged to participate in collaborative interdisciplinary approaches for the recognition, assessment and intervention of victims of family violence. These approaches include the development of policies, protocols, and relationships with outside agencies that oversee the management and investigation of family violence.
  • Hospitals and EDs should maintain appropriate education regarding state legal requirements for reporting intimate partner violence, child and elder maltreatment.


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