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Table of Contents > Articles > Dealing with Domestic Violence
Dealing with Domestic Violence

As many as one in five women who visit emergency rooms are victims of domestic violence. In total, about two to four million women in the United States are victims of domestic violence each year. And every day, four of them die. Still, many doctors and medical staff do not ask their patients about domestic violence.

Domestic violence is one family member harming another family member. Anyone, no matter what their sex, age, or social status, may be a victim. Most commonly, but not always, domestic violence involves a man abusing a woman. The abuse may be physical, sexual, or emotional. Physical abuse includes hitting, kicking, pushing, and choking. Sexual abuse is forced sexual participation. This includes participation when one person is unconscious or afraid to say no. Psychological abuse includes yelling at, threatening, blaming, and making someone feel inferior or stupid. Often more than one kind of abuse happens in domestic violence. Domestic violence usually continues over a long time and gets more frequent and severe over time.

If you suffer from domestic violence, you may visit your doctor because you are also having difficulty sleeping, are anxious, depressed, or drinking too much. Your doctor may quickly diagnose your sleep disorder, depression, eating disorder, or alcohol abuse. However, he or she may not ask you if these are related to domestic violence. A recent study shows that about half of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners think that domestic violence is very rare. Even more nurses feel this way. Almost half of the medical professionals surveyed said that when they meet a patient with injuries that might be due to domestic violence they seldom or never ask direct questions about domestic violence.

If you feel you are a victim of domestic violence, speak up. Visit your doctor right away, and tell them your concerns. If you know someone who might be abused, talk to him or her and urge that person to get help. Anyone can get help from the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. If you see domestic violence happening or hear a violent fight, call 911. You may save someone's life.


References

American Academy of Family Physicians, Commission on Special Issues and Clinical Interests. Family violence: an AAFP white paper. Am Fam Physician. 1994;50:1636-1646.

Freund KM, Bak SM, Blackhall I. Identifying domestic violence in primary care. J Gen Intern Med. 1996;1:44-46.

Freidman LS, Samet JH, Roberts MS, et al. Inquiry about victimization experiences: a survey of patient preferences and physician practices. Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1186-1190.

Hamberger LK, Saunders DG, Hovey M. Prevalence of domestic violence in community practice and rate of physician inquiry. Fam Med. 1992;24:283-287.

Rodriguez MA, Bauer HM, McLoughlin E, Grumbach K. Screening and intervention for intimate partner abuse: practices and attitudes of primary care physicians. JAMA 1999;282(5):468-474.

McFarlance J, Parker B, Seeken K, Bullock L. Assessing for abuse during pregnancy. Severity and frequency of injuries and associated entry into prenatal care. JAMA 1992;267(23):3176-3178.

Sugg NK, Thompson RS, Thompson DC, Maiuro R, Rivara FP. Domestic violence and primary care: attitudes, practices, and beliefs. Arch Fam Med. 1999;8:301-306.

Wiist WH, McFarlance J. The effectiveness of an Abuse Assessment Protocol in Public Health Prenatal Clinics. Am J Public Health 1999;89(8):1217-1221.

Violence Against Women section on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Web site at www.acog.org.

"Domestic Violence" on AMA Health Insight on the AMA Web site, www.ama-assn.org.

"Domestic Violence and Primary Care: Attitudes, Practices, and Beliefs," Archives of Family Medicine, July/August 1999. On the AMA Web site, www.ama-assn.org.


Review Date: March 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

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