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  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Human Trafficking
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Sex Offenses

Safe Discharge Needs Following Emergency Care for Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Assault, and Sex Trafficking


Journal Title:

Western Journal of Emergency Medicine


Volume 24, Number 3


, Pages 615-621

Type of Work:



Introduction: For survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) seeking care in hospital emergency departments (ED) the need for medical care and safe discharge is acute. Methods: In this study we evaluated safe discharge needs of GBV survivors following hospital-based care at a public hospital in Atlanta, GA, in 2019 and between April 1, 2020–September 30, 2021, using both retrospective chart review and evaluation of a novel clinical observation protocol for safe discharge planning. Results: Of 245 unique encounters, only 60% of patients experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) were discharged with a safe plan and only 6% were discharged to shelters. This hospital instituted an ED observation unit (EDOU) to support GBV survivors with safe disposition. Then, through the EDOU protocol, 70.7% were able to achieve safe disposition, with 33% discharged to a family/friend and 31% discharged to a shelter. Conclusion: Safe disposition following experience or disclosure of IPV and GBV in the ED is difficult, and social work staff have limited bandwidth to assist with navigation of accessing community-based resources. Through an average 24.3 hours of an extended ED observation protocol, 70% of patients were able to achieve a safe disposition. The EDOU supportive protocol substantially increased the proportion of the GBV survivors who experienced a safe discharge.
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