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 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
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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.
Rodriguez MA, Bauer HM, McLoughlin E, Grumbach K. Screening and intervention
for intimate partner abuse: practices and attitudes of primary care physicians.
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.
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