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Resources :: Guide :: Vulnerable and risk sensitive participants :: Risk-sensitive populations :: Domestic abuse :: Reporting domestic abuse

Reporting Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can take many forms from the inward signs of emotional abuse and sexual abuse to the more obvious outward signs of physical abuse. As a researcher, you may encounter both the victim and the victimizer. The Women’s Place at U.VA. has an excellent site that defines emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and provides information on the signs of abuse.  This site can be a good resource to provide to your participants if you suspect they may be victims of abuse. 

In this section, the discussion of abuse is meant to cover known on-going events, or the suspicion of an event that has already occurred.  In the event that you become aware of an immediate and specific threat to harm someone, you may have legal obligations to report the event to the authorities.  For more information, please see Immediate Threat.

What are my responsibilities to report domestic abuse?
As a researcher, you do not have specific legal responsibilities for reporting abuse. However, you should consider the well-being of your participants and act in their best interests, as stated in the Belmont Report. Often these situations are delicate and require experienced individuals to council the participant. If you do not have certified experience in helping an abused individual, do not council your participant or become involved in the situation. Inappropriate action may put the participant at greater risk. As you are working with an adult, the more appropriate step may be to refer the participant to resources that can help them, such as a hotline or shelter (as the situation warrants) instead of simply calling the police. However, if you become aware of a specific and immediate threat to harm your participant, or if your participant expresses intentions to harm herself or another, you should contact the appropriate authorities. Please note that mental health service providers have a duty to take precautions to protect third parties from violent behavior or other serious harm when a specific and immediate threat to cause serious bodily injury or death has been communicated. For more information, please see Immediate Threats.

What should I do if I suspect domestic abuse?
Providing a list of resources for the participant to use is one way to respond to suspicions of domestic abuse.  For research focusing on such issues, the Board will require that a list of resources be provided to all participants in the study.  The Women’s Center Sexual and Domestic Violence services has a list of hotlines and community contacts on their website.

They also provide a third party anonymous reporting mechanism for campus related incidents.

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