The role of working experience, knowledge and attitude concerning sexual and domestic violence in the screening habits and barriers of Belgian general practitioners

Authors & affiliation

Ines Keygnaert, Anke Vandenberghe, Lisa Fomenko


The first representative research investigating sexual violence in the Belgian population aged 16 to 69 years found a lifetime prevalence of 64% (1). During the COVID-19 pandemic at least 1 out of 3 Belgian residents experienced domestic violence. Nevertheless only 27% of them sought professional support, often in their general practitioner (GP) (2). With GPs being key healthcare providers in primary care, it is extremely important to involve them in the care for victims of sexual and domestic violence (SV/DV). From November 2021 until May 2022 we mapped out which support is necessary in dealing with SV/DV in primary care. The online survey addressed socio-demographics, knowledge, attitude, strength of beliefs and practices regarding SV/DV. Descriptive statistics were computed for all variables. Significant differences in the distribution of the variables were computed using independent samples t-tests, Welch’s t-test statistics, one-way ANOVAs, Mann-Whitney U tests or Kruskal-Wallis tests. A total of 260 GPs fully completed the survey. The results show that GPs evaluate their SV/DV knowledge and skills as insufficient, withholding them to address it with their patients. This is reflected in their low experience with SV/DV and their limited presumption of a history of SV/DV within their patients. GPs having more work experience, higher knowledge and a better and stronger attitude towards SV/DV are more likely and more confident in addressing SV/DV. Given our results, it is paramount to enhance competence in GPs enabling to care for patients exposed to SV/DV.

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Ines Keygnaert

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