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Staff response to abuse histories of psychiatric inpatients

By John Read and Allen Fraser


Objective: In the context of numerous studies demonstrating that a significant proportion of psychiatric inpatients have been sexually or physically abused at some point in their lives this study ascertained the responses of staff in a psychiatric inpatient unit to knowledge that patients had been subjected to sexual or physical abuse, in childhood or adulthood.Method: The medical records of 100 consecutive admissions were examined. Staff response was measured in terms of: (i) acquiring information about previous treatment for, or disclosure of, abuse; (ii) providing information, support or counselling during hospitalisation; (iii) reporting to legal authorities; and (iv) referring for ongoing abuse counselling.Results: Of the 32 patients who were documented as having disclosed abuse 11 files included documentation of previous treatment or disclosure; none were reported to have received support, counselling or information while in hospital; and three referrals were made for ongoing counselling. None of the 52 separate instances of abuse were reported to the authorities. Demographic, diagnostic, clinical and treatment variables, as well as the four abuse categories, were analysed for possible linkage to probability of staff response in each of the four response categories.Conclusions: It was hypothesised that the low staff response rate is not unique to the particular unit evaluated here. Recommendations are offered regarding the need for unit policies ensuring routine abuse inquiry and for staff training about how to respond to abuse disclosures

Publisher: Sage
Year: 1998
DOI identifier: 10.3109/00048679809062730
OAI identifier:
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