4. Responding to a disclosure

Your immediate response and attitude when a woman discloses family violence can make a difference.

‘Patients… value emotional support from healthcare professionals, careful and non-judgmental listening, and reassurance that the abuse is not their fault and that negative feelings are understandable.’¹¹

Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a woman who has been abused.
Communicate belief
‘That must have been frightening for you.’
Validate the decision to disclose
‘I understand it could be very difficult for you to talk about this.’
Emphasise the unacceptability of violence
‘Violence is unacceptable; you do not deserve to be treated this way.’
Be clear that she is not to blame
Avoid suggesting that the woman is responsible for the violence or that she is able to control the violence by changing her behaviour.
Do not ask
▪ ‘Why don’t you leave?’
▪ ‘What could you have done to avoid this situation?’
▪ ‘Why did he hit you?’
Flowchart of steps to take after disclosure by patient

Figure 2: Key steps after a disclosure of family violence (Click to enlarge)


[icon name=icon-double-angle-left]3. How to ask your patient

5. Initial safety planning [icon name=icon-double-angle-right]

[11] Jane London, above n 2.