Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Framing Introductory Questions

  • Always interview the woman alone and in private and start with a simple explanation as to why the questions are being asked
  • For example: “Because woman abuse is so common in many people’s lives, I now ask all my clients about it.” May I ask you a couple of questions?
  • “Many of the women I see are dealing with abuse in their relationships. Some are too afraid and uncomfortable to bring it up themselves, so I’ve started asking about it routinely.” May I ask you a couple of questions?
  • If woman says “No”, respect her decision
  • If “yes” to the question above, then ask specific questions. For example: “Have you ever been hurt or threatened by someone?” “Are you currently or have you ever been in a relationship where you were physically hurt, threatened, or made to feel afraid (or unsafe)?” “Have you ever been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused by your partner or someone important to you?”

    Specific Considerations for Young Women

  • “Everyone has a right to be safe and choose what happens to their body. In my practice I see many young women who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships and with their friends/boyfriends. May I ask you some questions?”
  • If “yes” to the question above, then ask specific questions. “Sometimes people say and do things to us that can be hurtful and make us feel confused and uncomfortable. Has anyone ever made you feel that way?” Let the response guide your next question(s).
  • If woman says “No” respect her decision.


  • You may need to define ‘hurt’ using age-appropriate language.  See section: Eight Types of Abuse
  • Avoid using words such as “bad”. A young person could take the word bad as meaning that they are bad or have done something wrong
  • Avoid using leading questions; be direct and to the point; let the young woman answer the question in her own words
  • With young women, it will be necessary to proceed slowly in order to build trust
  • You may need to explain that if abuse was of a sexual nature and resulted in “feeling good”, it does not make the action acceptable
Women and Children
Woman Abuse: Screening, Identification and Initial Response
Point of Care Resources