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The Women Abuse Screening Tool: A Ten-Year Program of Research #01-1

J.B. Brown, B.L. Ryan

November 2001


Frequently, research emanating from clinical practice in the discipline of family medicine comes from a simple question. The question initiating this ten-year exploration of family physicians’ identification and treatment of woman abuse epitomizes such an occurrence.  The overwhelming evidence of the serious physical, emotional and social costs of woman abuse prompted one of the investigators, a family physician to ask, “In my practice, I am not identifying these women - What am I doing wrong?” In order to answer this question a program of research on woman abuse was launched. Spanning a 10-year period from 1990 to 2000, it has involved researchers from Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and New York State in the U.S.

This Working Paper: (1) describes how a program of research evolves; (2) summarizes the main studies including the multiple methods used and the key findings; (3) illustrates the education and dissemination process; and (4) explores the lessons learned in the research endeavour. The Working Paper provides summaries of previously published articles and presentations generated from the research program. Highlighted is the development of the Woman Abuse Screening Tool (WAST) and Woman Abuse Screening Tool – Short (WAST-Short) specifically the evaluation of the tools’ psychometric properties in English, French and Spanish. Finally, the application of the WAST and WAST-Short in the family practice setting demonstrates both their usefulness and acceptance by women patients and their family physicians.