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Domestic violence survivors push to change mandatory reporting law for health care workers

Posted at 5:04 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 19:04:48-05

DENVER -- Domestic violence survivors like Tracey Tatro-Swindle always struggle to re-tell their stories of years of abuse. 

But in doing so, Tatro-Swindle is hoping to keep other victims and people who may be suffering from abuse now a little safer.

She and some other survivors, along with a group of physicians and domestic violence advocacy groups are asking for a sweeping change in Colorado state law when it comes to mandatory reporting of abuse to law enforcement from medical personnel.

They said mandatory reporting can put victims further in harm’s way if they don’t yet have a way out of their current abusive situation.

Tatro-Swindle said she never went to the doctor for her injuries for fear they would call the police and her situation at home would get worse.

“I was thrown down a flight of stairs when I was pregnant, a laceration in my head that probably needed sutures, I had my strangulation injury and what I did end up going to the emergency room for was pneumonia,” said Tatro-Swindle.  “I didn’t go for the other things that I should have because I was too afraid that they were going to pick up on something that would have been a reason for them to report and call the police.”

Tatro-Swindle said she finally went to the doctor to get treatment for pneumonia and had to beg him not to call the police for the bruises he found all over her body.

“He had brought that up to me and asked if I wanted him to do that and I said please don’t call the police and he knew that I had no safety net or plan set up for myself and my children and made that decision to not call which saved my life practically,” said Tatro-Swindle.

The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence is pushing for legislators to support a draft bill that will remove mandatory reporting for medical professionals. 

The group said it prefers the reporting go straight to victim’s advocacy groups for help before the call goes out to law enforcement.

Representatives with the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence said Colorado joins just five other states that require doctors, physician assistants and anesthetists to report suspected abuse to law enforcement.

“We’re putting people in harm’s way when we make a call to the police to report, the thought and the intent behind that is good and we want to help, but often times doing that is just making things worse for that person once they get home,” said Tatro-Swindle.

The group expects to introduce a bill to legislators to support sometime this year.

If you are a current victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, you can call 1-800-799-HELP anonymously for help.

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