(Non-)disclosure of lifetime sexual violence in maternity care: Disclosure rate, associated characteristics and reasons for non-disclosure

Hannah W. de Klerk, Marit S. G. van der Pijl, Ank de Jonge, Martine H. Hollander, Corine J. Verhoeven, Elsa Montgomery, Janneke T. Gitsels-van der Wal

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Background In maternity care, disclosure of a past sexual violence (SV) experience can be helpful to clients to discuss specific intimate care needs. Little evidence is available about the disclosure rates of SV within maternity care and reasons for non-disclosure. Aim The aim of this study was to examine (1) the disclosure rate of SV in maternity care, (2) characteristics associated with disclosure of SV and (3) reasons for non-disclosure. Methods We conducted a descriptive mixed method study in the Netherlands. Data was collected through a cross-sectional online questionnaire with both multiple choice and open-ended items. We performed binary logistic regression analysis for quantitative data and a reflexive thematic analysis for qualitative data. Results In our sample of 1,120 respondents who reported SV, 51.9% had disclosed this to a maternity care provider. Respondents were less likely to disclose when they received obstetrician-led care for high-risk pregnancy (vs midwife-led care for low-risk pregnancy) and when they had a Surinamese or Antillean ethnic background (vs ethnic Dutch background). Reasons for non-disclosure of SV were captured in three themes: ‘My SV narrative has its place outside of my pregnancy’, ‘I will keep my SV narrative safe inside myself’, and ‘my caregiver needs to create the right environment for my SV narrative to be told’. Conclusions The high level of SV disclosure is likely due to the Dutch universal screening policy. However, some respondents did not disclose because of unsafe care conditions such as the presence of a third person and concerns about confidentiality. We also found that many respondents made a positive autonomous choice for non-disclosure of SV. Disclosure should therefore not be a goal in itself, but caregivers should facilitate an inviting environment where clients feel safe to disclose an SV experience if they feel it is relevant for them.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285776
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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