American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Statement on Domestic Violence

The following statement was developed by the College's Committee on Trauma and was approved by the Board of Regents at its October 1999 meeting.

The American College of Surgeons recognizes that domestic violence is a major public health problem for children, intimate partners, and the elderly, with victims frequently needing surgical care.

Whereas domestic violence is defined as behavior designed to exert undue control over another person, using physical, sexual, or psychological means;

Whereas domestic violence is the leading cause of serious injury to young women;

Whereas physical manifestations of domestic violence range from minor cuts and abrasions to lethal blunt and penetrating wounds;

Whereas all abuse victims are at increased risk for developing major depression, attempting suicide, and getting involved with drugs and abusing alcohol;

Whereas domestic violence should be identified as a causative agent for certain injuries;

Whereas failure to diagnose domestic violence will result in failure to identify a disease process that is likely to recur;

It is therefore the responsibility of the treating surgeon not only to care for the immediate injury and to reassure the patient, but also to identify and report potential threats to his or her safety, and to encourage an ongoing safety strategy.

Surgeons are encouraged to take a leadership role in their communities, hospitals, and medical schools in preventing and treating domestic violence.


  1. Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association: Physicians and domestic violence, ethical considerations. JAMA, 267:113-116, 1992.
  2. McAfee RE: Physicians and domestic violence, can we make a difference? JAMA, 273:1790-1791, 1995.
  3. Sisley A, Jacobs LM, Poole G, et al: Violence in America: A public health crisis domestic violence. The Violence Prevention Task Force of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. J Trauma, 46(6):1105-1113, June 1999.

Reprinted from Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
Vol.85, No. 2, February 2000