Developing Assessments for Child Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence in Switzerland – a Study of Medico-Legal Reports in Clinical Settings

  • Jacqueline De PuyEmail author
  • Lorraine Radford
  • Virginie Le Fort
  • Nathalie Romain-Glassey
Original Article


Evidence to inform assessment of needs of children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) in health settings is limited. A Swiss hospital-based medico-legal consultation for adult victims of violence also detects children’s exposure to IPV and refers cases to the Pediatrics Child Abuse and Neglect Team. Based on a conceptual ecological framework, this study examined the nature and circumstances of children’s exposure to IPV described in accounts collected by nurses in consultations with adult IPV victims. From 2011 to 2014, 438 parents (88% female) of 668 children aged 0 to 18 sought medico-legal care from the Violence Medical Unit in Lausanne Switzerland following assaults by intimate partners (85% male). As part of the consultation, nurses completed a semi-structured questionnaire with victimized parents, recording their answers in the patient file. Victims’ statements about the abuse, their personal, family and social contexts, and their children’s exposure to IPV were analyzed. Descriptive statistics and qualitative thematic content analyses were conducted to identify, from the victimized parents’ accounts, elements useful to understand the nature and circumstances of children’s exposure and involvement during violent events. Parent statements on specific violent events described children being present in 75% of the cases. Children were said to be exposed to, and responded to, severe physical violence, serious threats and insults, in the context of repeated assaults and coercive control. Families, especially mothers, were often coping with additional socio-economic vulnerabilities. Implications for further developing assessments of children living with IPV, especially in health settings were identified.


Intimate partner violence Domestic violence Child maltreatment Children’s exposure Child needs assessment Clinical legal medicine 



We are grateful to the members of our scientific committee for their encouragements and useful comments on our findings: Prof. Sherry L. Hamby, Faten Kazaei, Prof. Patrice Mangin. We thank the two assistant doctors, Christelle Voland and Marie Schwery for contributing to the literature review, data collection and initial analyses. We are thankful for the support of the institutions who financed the study: Service de Protection de la Jeunesse du Canton de Vaud, Zonta Club, Bureau fédéral de l’égalité entre femmes et hommes, Commission vaudoise de lutte contre la violence domestique, Service de prévoyance et d'aides sociales, Lausanne, et Fondation Isabelle Hafen. We are thankful to Gilbert Leistner for editing the English language of the final version and to Corinne Dallera for her remarks.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Violence Medical Unit, University Center of Legal MedicineLausanne University Hospital and University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.School of Social Work, Care and CommunityUniversity of Central LancashirePrestonUK

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