The differences between police and hospital morbidity data in the demographic profile of mothers who are victims of family and domestic violence.

Ms Carol Orr1, Prof Colleen  Fisher1, Dr Rebecca Glauert2, Prof David Preen1, Dr  Jocelyn Jones1, Dr Melissa O’Donnell2

1The University Of Western Australia, Perth, Australia,

2Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Family and domestic violence (FDV) perpetrated against women is a significant public health issue. FDV impacts multiple agencies, it has been reported that Australian police are called out to an incident of FDV every two minutes. Furthermore, FDV contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.

Our retrospective cohort study used linked administrative data from WA Police and WA Hospital Morbidity to identify mothers who were victims of FDV in a five-year period (2004-2008). Our aim was to gain an understanding of the overlap of the issue in both Police and Hospital data. Specifically, do women who are in contact with police attend hospital for FDV.

We found that 11% of mothers identified as victims of FDV in police data were also identified in hospital data as victims of FDV. There were important differences in the datasets with a greater proportion of Aboriginal women having a hospital admission (73%) but not being identified in the police FDV data compared to non-Aboriginal mothers (27%).  Mothers in the police identification only group were more likely to have children present at their assault than the women who were identified in both hospital and police data.

The findings indicate that both datasets are important in investigating FDV. It also indicates that Aboriginal mothers are more likely to attend hospital for an FDV incident but not contact police.  This is important information for providing support and interventions for mothers who present for FDV incidents.


Carol Orr has an MSc in public health and is a PhD candidate at The University of Western Australia. She is also a teaching academic at the School of Nursing & Midwifery at The University of Notre Dame, Australia. Her research focuses on the outcomes of children exposed to family and domestic violence.

Melissa O’Donnell has a PhD and is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on the area of child abuse and neglect and utilizes linked government data.

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