Disclosing Gender-Based Violence During Health Care Visits: A Patient-Centered Approach

Jessica R. Williams, Rosa M. Gonzalez-Guarda, Valerie Halstead, Jacob Martinez, Laly Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to better understand victims’ perspectives regarding decisions to disclose gender-based violence, namely, intimate partner violence (IPV) and human trafficking, to health care providers and what outcomes matter to them when discussing these issues with their provider. Twenty-five participants from racially/ethnically diverse backgrounds were recruited from a family justice center located in the southeastern United States. Two fifths had experienced human trafficking, and the remaining had experienced IPV. Upon obtaining informed consent, semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative content analysis was used to examine interview data. Five primary themes emerged. Three themes focused on factors that may facilitate or impede disclosure: patient–provider connectedness, children, and social support. The fourth theme was related to ambiguity in the role of the health care system in addressing gender-based violence. The final theme focused on outcomes participants hope to achieve when discussing their experiences with health care providers. Similar themes emerged from both IPV and human trafficking victims; however, victims of human trafficking were more fearful of judgment and had a stronger desire to keep experiences private. Cultural factors also played an important role in decisions around disclosure and may interact with the general disparities racial/ethnic minority groups face within the health care system. Recognizing factors that influence patient engagement with the health care system as it relates to gender-based violence is critical. The health care system can respond to gender-based violence and its associated comorbidities in numerous ways and interventions must be driven by the patient’s goals and desired outcomes of disclosure. These interventions may be better served by taking patient-centered factors into account and viewing the effectiveness of intervention programs through a behavioral, patient-centered lens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5552-5573
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • disclosure of domestic violence
  • domestic violence
  • domestic violence and cultural contexts
  • prostitution/sex work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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