Wednesday May 18th 2022- embargo 10.30am

New guide on management of domestic violence in general practice helps GPs to recognise abuse and advise patients.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee launches new guide for GPs.

The Irish College of General Practitioners, the professional and educational body for Irish GPs, has today (18th May) launched a guide for members to recognise and advise patients who are experiencing domestic violence abuse (DVA) in their lives.

The guide helps GPs recognise and act on the indicators of DVA, which are not always obvious.

The ICGP’s Director of Women’s Health, Dr Nóirín O’Herlihy, said: “For GPs, it is not always easy to identify if a patient is experiencing domestic violence and abuse. For patients, it can be difficult to disclose it. It is important for GPs to be confident to ask patients about the possibility of domestic violence and abuse when it is safe. GPs are more likely to ask in high-risk situations, for example, during pregnancy.

“People who experience domestic abuse often have regular contact with their GP and identify doctors and nurses as professionals from whom they would like to get support. It is vital that healthcare professionals such as GPs and their practice teams are aware of, and ask about, domestic abuse.”

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, said: “I know that every day, Irish doctors take great care to help women, men and families who have experienced domestic abuse.

Ensuring that the best possible supports are available to victims is an area of work which I and my colleagues in Government have identified as a priority.  I very much welcome that this guide will enhance the support already being provided by GPs to victims and it will ensure that appropriate referrals, ongoing support and follow up is consistently provided which will empower patients/victims with the correct information and resources.

“The Government has prioritised tackling domestic violence in all its forms, and ensuring that people, particularly women and vulnerable people, feel safe and are safe in our communities.

“I am currently leading work on a new whole-of-Government strategy to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which will set an overall goal of zero tolerance in our society for domestic violence. This new plan will have a particular focus on prevention, and on ensuring victims are better supported, and initiatives like this guide help with both.”

 Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, ICGP Medical Director, added: “The prevalence of domestic violence and abuse has been particularly concerning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this guide is timely for GPs and their practice teams. Domestic violence and abuse are under-recognised and under-treated.  Improving the detection and management of DVA has enormous potential to improve the lives and health of victims and their families, especially children. GPs are ideally placed to provide this care.

“This guide sets out the common presentation of DVA, and what actions a GP can take, from the questions to ask, how to assess risk, advising on support services, while encouraging the patient to return for follow-up.”

Surveys show that the majority of people in Ireland do not object to being asked about DVA but only 12% of Irish women reported that they had been asked by their GP about violence.

This guide provides sample questions for GPs and practice teams to discuss the subject of DVA with their patients, and how to ensure the consulting environment in the practice protects victims’ confidentiality.

View a detailed summary of the DVA guide for GPs (PDF, 505KB)

ISSUED BY: Aileen O’Meara, Communications Consultant, Irish College of General Practitioners.

Tel. 01 2542984 / 087 2239830.  Email:

MEDIA INTERVIEWS available on request.

PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS: David Coleman, Bobby Studios. 087 678 7899



  • Fifteen per cent (15%) of women and 6% of men have experienced severely abusive behaviour of a physical, sexual or emotional nature from a partner at some time in their lives. On average, high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for 2.3 years before getting help, and medium-risk victims for three years.
  • DVA has the highest repeat victimisation rate. In 2007-8 in the UK, 54% of victims experienced domestic abuse from the same perpetrator on more than one occasion.
  • DVA can be fatal. Most women who were intentionally killed in Ireland were killed by a current or former intimate partner

The aims of the DVA Quick Reference Guide are to:

  • improve the awareness and recognition of domestic abuse
  • highlight the risk factors for, and presentations of, domestic abuse in primary care
  • illustrate how to respond to a disclosure of domestic abuse with empathy and understanding
  • assess someone’s immediate safety
  • advise on the appropriate referral options and supports for patients who disclose
  • inform GPs on legal issues and reporting requirements