Domestic violence is one of the leading health risks to women in the United States. For pregnant women living with an abusive partner, the risk to their safety and the outcome of their pregnancy, as well as the risk to the child, increase dramatically. This risk is preventable when identified and addressed through routine screening by health care providers. Though pregnant women make many more visits to health care professionals than do women who are not pregnant, 92% of abused women do not discuss the violence with their physicians, and many physicians are unprepared to screen for domestic violence.

The BabySafe project, a program of SafePlace, an agency serving domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the Austin area, is one of the first in the country to address these issues. The project, which began in February, 2002, provides education and support services to battered women who are pregnant, including case management, domestic violence and parenting education, as well as social supports to mothers who have been in abusive situations. Further, the project works to improve the ability of health care providers to identify and provide services to women who are experiencing abuse by providing training about routine screening for domestic violence to obstetricians, women’s health clinics, and hospitals throughout Travis County. In 2003 this work will continue along with advocacy for implementation of standardized protocols so that domestic violence can be identified early in a pregnancy.

The evaluation component of this project assesses changes in program participants’ perceptions of safety, knowledge about domestic violence, and access to prenatal care over the course of their participation in the program and includes both qualitative and quantitative measures. In addition, the effectiveness of the training to medical providers will be assessed through a brief pencil and paper evaluation immediately following the training.

SafePlace, Inc., Austin, TX