Domestic Abuse

State Law

California State Abuse Reporting Law (California Penal Code Section 11160 – 11163.2) requires any healthcare practitioner to make a report if he or she

“provides medical services for a physical condition to a patient whom he or she knows or reasonably suspects is suffering from any wound or physical the result of assaultive or abusive conduct.”

A “mandated reporter” (see box at right) is required to:

1)  Call the Police Department in the city where the incident occurred immediately or as soon as is practicable.  (You can call the Palo Alto PD at 650-329-2413 and ask them to look up the appropriate number for you.) Often, that Police Department will then call the Palo Alto PD and ask them to take a "courtesy report”. 

Before you call the police, ask patient if s/he needs to make arrangements for children who may be in the home when the police arrive to arrest partner.

2)  Turn in a written report within 48 hours to the Police Dept. in the city where the incident occurred (see Forms):

Federal regulations require you to notify the patient that you are filling out a report unless:

  • you believe such disclosure would place the patient at risk, or
  • you would be informing a personal representative who you believe may be responsible for the abuse or injury, and in the exercise of your professional judgment this would not be in the patient's best interests (e.g. the patient is unconscious from a head injury, and you would be informing her husband).

NOTE: Reporting abuse can create a dangerous situation for the patient, and it is vitally important that s/he is counseled about safety at the time of discharge.  If you, the social worker, or the patient have any immediate concerns about what will happen on leaving the clinic or hospital, or if the abuser is present, contact security at 3-7222 or the Palo Alto PD at 650-329-2413. You can also assist the patient with information:




Who is a "mandated reporter" of domestic abuse?

If you are seeing an adult patient (<65) for a physical condition, and you find or reasonably suspect physical evidence of abuse, you are required to report, even if the patient denies abuse.

However, if you are seeing a patient for other consultation, such as a psychiatrist or a social worker, or if you are a pediatrician seeing a child as your patient, you are not required to report. Patient may choose to make their own report by contacting police.

Note this is different than required reporting about elder, dependent adult or child abuse, when simply hearing about abuse, without physical evidence, requires a report from any healthcare worker.

FAQ about this issue>

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