Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Domestic Violence and Health Care

Women are less likely than men to be victims of violent crimes, but they are five to eight times more likely to be victimized by an intimate partner. A quarter to half of women around the world have suffered violence from an intimate partner, according the UNICEF’s report The Progress of Nations, 1997. Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year, to 3.9 million women raped, and or physically assaulted, by an intimate partner per year. A 1998 Commonwealth Fun survey found that nearly 31% of American women report being physically or sexually abused by their husbands or boyfriends at some point in their lives. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that 37% of women who were admitted to a hospital ER for violence related injuries were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

The injuries are severe. Out of 218 women who came to an ER with injuries due to domestic violence 28% required admission, 13% required major treatment, and 40% had previous required medical care due to abuse. Besides the injuries sustained during abuse, physical and psychological abuse is linked to arthritis, chronic neck or back pain, migraines, stammering, problems seeing, sexually transmitted infections, chronic pelvic pain, stomach ulcers, spastic colon, and frequent indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation. 56% of women who have been abused are diagnose with a psychiatric disorder, 29% of all women who have attempted suicide were abused, 37% of abused women have depression, and 46% have anxiety disorders.

Children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution, and commit sexual assault crimes. 56% of men who abuse their wives frequently also assault their children. About $1,633 is spent for medical services provided to abused women, children, and older people per person per year, according to a study conducted at Rush Medical Center in Chicago. This amounts to a national cost of $857.3 million.

Domestic violence is hard to identify. Almost 92% of women who were physically abused did not discuss it with their physicians and about 57% did not discuss it with anyone. The Journal of the American Association found in 1999 that 10% of physicians screen new patients for intimate partner abuse, and 90% routinely screen during checkups. Accoridng to a survey 240,000 pregnant women, (about 6% of all pregnant women in the U.S.), are abused by men in their lives. Complications of pregnancy, including low weight gain, anemia, infections, first and second trimester bleeding, depression, suicide attempts, tobacco, alcohol, and drug use are significantly higher for abused women. Read more:

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