Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

(June 5) – A bill authored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, to change when doctors and other medical professionals are required to report instances of domestic violence in order to remove a deterrent for victims to seek care was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper today.

“This bill puts the power of reporting domestic violence in the hands of the survivor,” said Rep. Esgar. “Survivors understand their safety better than anyone else. This new law removes a hard and fast rule that was written with good intentions but doesn’t always work as intended and can even put a survivor in more danger.”

Currently, the law requires any licensed physician, physician assistant, or anesthesiologist who treats someone he or she believes to be the victim of domestic violence to report the injury to local law enforcement. This can have the unintended consequence of alerting the survivor’s attacker before the survivor has a safety plan, potentially making the situation worse. Even when law enforcement takes action against suspected abusers, many domestic violence suspects are able to get out of jail on bond so quickly that their victims may not have time to get into a shelter or other safe location. Ultimately, this can have a chilling effect whereby survivors of domestic violence don’t come forward to seek medical care for fear of retaliation by their abuser.

HB17-1322 removes this requirement under certain circumstances while creating new safeguards, including requiring the medical professional to document a victim’s request for confidentiality in the victim’s medical record. The bill also specifies that medical professionals must either refer the survivor to a victims’ advocate or provide the victim with information concerning available support services.

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