Mandatory reporting laws for intimate partner violence aim to provide additional protection for victims by requiring persons other than the victim to report the crime or suspected crime. In the United States, only five states (Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming) do not mandate some form of reporting for various types of violence. Mandatory reporting laws specific to intimate partner violence have been enacted in five states (California, Colorado, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island).
Laws relating to intimate partner violence, including mandatory reporting, have generally been seen as substantively different from the broader case of violence against persons along two major issues: the nature of the relationship between victim and perpetrator and the autonomy of the adult victim. The historical stance that violence between intimates should be treated differently is reflected in legal decisions such as in an 1824 Mississippi case finding that under certain circumstances a man would not be subject to prosecution if he physically disciplined his wife. The second issue has its roots in the feminist movement and challenges mandatory reporting for victims who are autonomous adults.
State statutes vary widely on what must be reported and by whom. California and Colorado laws include intimate partner violence in requiring that health care providers report to law enforcement if they know or reasonably suspect that a patient’s physical injury was caused by a firearm or by assaultive or abusive acts. Kentucky’s law requires reporting to a state social service agency by any persons, not just by health care providers who have reasonable cause to suspect intimate partner violence. New Hampshire law mandates reporting by health care providers similar to that required in California and Colorado, unless the patient is also a victim of sexual assault or abuse or if the patient is over 18 and objects to the release of this information to the police. These exclusions from reporting do not apply if a gunshot wound is being treated. In Rhode Island, health care providers must report intimate partner violence for data collection purposes only without any patient identifying information.
The goal of mandatory reporting law is to provide additional protection to victims of intimate partner violence, but questions remain concerning the effectiveness of such laws and possible unintended effects on victims that will need to be resolved through continuing research and surveillance.
- Bledsoe, L. K., Yankeelov, P. A., Barbee, A. P., & Antle, B. (2004). Understanding the impact of intimate partner violence mandatory reporting law. Violence Against Women, 10, 534–560.
- Houry, D., Sachs, C. J., Feldhaus, K. M., & Linden, J. (2002). Violence inflicted injuries: Reporting laws in the fifty states. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 39, 56–60.
- Hyman, A. (1997, November). Mandatory reporting of domestic violence by health care providers: A policy paper. San Francisco: Family Violence Prevention Fund. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/HealthCare/mandatory_policypaper.pdf
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