Balancing the dictates of law and ethical practice: Empowerment of female survivors of domestic violence in the presence of overlapping child abuse

Ethics and Behavior 13 (4):353 – 366 (2003)
Legal and ethical issues arise for clinicians working with female clients who are survivors of domestic violence and who have children. Statistics indicate that children of 30%-80% of such women are also abused. Disclosure by an abused woman of concurrent child abuse creates an ethical dilemma for the clinician involving adherence to mandatory reporting laws and the ethical duty to protect vs. ethical issues of confidentiality and respect for client autonomy. Potential resolution of this dilemma incorporates core tenets of feminist theory. A hypothetical scenario illustrating the ethical dilemma is provided, and some practical guidelines for its resolution, although not yet empirically tested, are outlined.
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