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3 in 4 domestic violence victims go unidentified in emergency rooms, Penn study shows
Date:3/16/2011

PHILADELPHIA -- More than three quarters of domestic violence victims who report the incidents to police seek health care in emergency rooms, but most of them are never identified as being victims of abuse during their hospital visit. These findings, from a new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study, point to a missed opportunity to intervene and offer help to women who suffer violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

"Emergency departments are a safety net for women with health issues of all kinds, but our study shows we're not doing a good enough job of assessing our patients' entire situation," said Karin V. Rhodes, MD, MS, director of Penn's Division of Emergency Care Policy Research in the department of Emergency Medicine. "There is no reason in the age of information technology that we should not provide routine screening and referrals to the social services patients can use to protect themselves from future violence."

The findings, published online this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, revealed that women who reported domestic assaults to the police relied heavily on emergency rooms for medical care: Nearly 80 percent came to an emergency room at least once during the four years after their assault. Most of those sought ED care frequently an average of seven times each. Although hospitals typically have policies requiring screening and intervention for domestic violence, only 28 percent of the patients studied were ever identified as victims of abuse. That's likely because most visits (78 percent) were for medical complaints, not injuries associated with the violence. Only 3.8 percent of the ED visits involved a chief complaint of assault, which the authors say underscores the importance of screening patients who don't appear to be at risk.

Previous studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence in the past year, but moves toward universal
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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