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Why we are offering this course?

To enable disclosure, professionals need to know how to ask effectively.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) knows no boundaries, not in relation to who it targets, when it strikes or how.

It may commence or escalate during pregnancy, when not just one, but two lives are at risk. A multi-country study undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO) found prevalence rates for physical partner violence during pregnancy of between 1.2% and 27.6% (García‐Moreno et al., 2005). Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk for intimate partner homicide, and men who abuse their partners during pregnancy seem to be particularly dangerous during this time (Campbell et al., 2003).

Pregnancy is a critical time for intervention and provides a unique window of opportunity for healthcare professionals to identify women who experience DVA. Through enhanced response to disclosure, health providers may be able to mitigate some of the consequences.

Screening is one type of intervention for approaching the problem in healthcare and has various levels of success in terms of identifying victims depending on the setting (O’Doherty et al., 2015). As a high-risk group, the WHO recommends asking all pregnant people about their exposure to abuse by intimate partners (WHO, 2016).

However, screening does not necessarily always lead to disclosure. To enable disclosure, professionals need to know how to ask effectively. They need to provide an appropriate response, which includes validating the person’s experience, offering information and assisting with safety planning.

The WHO (2016) recommendations on the management of DVA during pregnancy state that a minimum condition for healthcare providers to ask women about DVA is that it must be safe to do so (for example, the partner is not present) and that identification of DVA is followed by an appropriate response. In addition, providers must be trained to ask questions correctly and to respond appropriately to women and transgender people who disclose violence. Through the delivery of this course, we aim to provide such training, inspired by both our own and others’ research.


Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M. A., Gary, F., Glass, N., McFarlane, J., Sachs, C., Sharps, P., Ulrich, Y., Wilt, S. A., Manganello, J., Xu, X., Schollenberger, J., Frye, V., & Laughon, K. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: Results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1089-1097. DOI link

García-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A. F. M., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. (2005). WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women. World Health Organization. Web link

O’Doherty, L., Hegarty, K., Ramsay, J., Davidson, L. L., Feder, G., & Taft, A. (2015). Screening women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. DOI link

World Health Organization. (2016). WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. Web link

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) in Pregnancy

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