Domestic abuse (DA) amongst female doctor parents: a qualitative study.

Talk Code: 
Emily Donovan
Dr Merlin Willcox and Dr Sara Morgan
Author institutions: 
Primary Care and Population Sciences, University of Southampton


Violence against women is described by WHO as “a global health problem of epidemic proportions". Recently there has been a push by the government to support doctors’ wellbeing, recognising that doctors have a particular set of risk factors that make them more vulnerable than the general population to stress. However, there has not been any discussion surrounding the problem of DA amongst female doctors, the lack of support many face and the unique challenges that female doctor victims of DA may face compared to the general public.

There is a paucity of data in this area. Of the few studies done, results show a substantially higher prevalence of DA amongst female health professionals compared to the general population .We have conducted a literature review and have not found any studies on this subject other than a personal account of a female doctor on their own experience of DA.



Semi-structured interviews have been conducted with a 18 participants identified on the Facebook group ‘The Solo Project’, a group for single doctor parents who are single through choice, break up of relationships or bereavement. Further interviews are scheduled to take place before the SW SAPC conference, until saturation of data is reached, at approximately 25-30 participants.



More than 100 female doctor parents have been identifed and are willing to participate in this study. Common themes emerging are: many of the perpetrators of DA are also doctors, women felt unsupported by their work and many felt unable to disclose DA. Very few were aware of NHS policys in place to support employees affected by DA. Some women have felt that a culture of bullying during junior doctor years meant that bullying at home by their partners was normalised. Some felt they have received inaquate support from social services, the courts and other doctors due to their being a doctor and they feel that early opportunities to help and support them leave an abusive relationship were missed. Many have been reliant on charities due to being left in financial hardship after relationship breakups, having to work less than full time due to childcare committments and costly court fees.


There is a lack of publicity regarding the problem of DA amongst female doctor parents, and a lack of support in place for them. The problem of many of the perpertrators also being doctors raises other important issues. More research is needed in this area to understand the scale of the problem, and to put measures in place to support our doctor workforce. The British Medical Association are very interested in this research which may lead to a quantitative study to enable the BMA to allocate financial support to support doctor victims of DA.

Submitted by: 
emily donovan
Funding acknowledgement: 
The British Medical Association are paying £1800 towards the cost of transcription of the interviews. Emily Donovan is an academic clinical fellow funded by NIHR.