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Survey reveals many patients may be silent victims of violence
e-Reports, Jan 23, 2012
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The number of men and women who have experienced violence by an intimate partner is startling, as revealed by the recently released National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 Summary Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over the course of a year, more than 12 million women and men in the U.S. said they were victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. Additionally, more than 1 million women, or one in four, reported being raped.

Alaska, Oregon and Nevada had the highest number of rapes and attempted rapes of women. Virginia and Tennessee were among the lowest.

In Indiana, the incidence of physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner is nearly 5 percent above the national average of 35.6 percent. The report also estimated one million Hoosier women and men are victims of intimate partner and sexual violence each year.

“I think this survey shows just how common abuse is in our homes here in Indiana,” noted Rhonda Sharp, M.D., chair of the ISMA Family Violence Committee.

Other findings revealed:

  • Approximately 80 percent of female victims were raped before the age of 25, and almost half before the age of 18.
  • About 35 percent of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults.
  • One in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while one in seven men experienced severe violence by an intimate partner.
  • Fear and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms were experienced by 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men who were raped, physically abused or stalked by an intimate partner.
  • Women who were raped or stalked were more likely to suffer asthma, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and other health consequences.

The importance of screening
Patients who may be victims of any violence or stalking may be reluctant to discuss their experiences. They may be ashamed, embarrassed, afraid of retribution from their perpetrators or fear lack of support from law enforcement.

“Physicians can help by screening patients with non-judgmental questions,” said Dr. Sharp. “Screening does not take a lot of time, but if a patient’s response is positive, it is worth the extra time to help them.”

According to the CDC, victims of violence may frequently complain of headaches, chronic pain, difficulty with sleeping, or present in poor physical and mental health.

“If I suspect a patient is suffering from abuse, I try to get someone from the local shelter to come immediately because I’m not convinced the person will either go to the shelter or call them later,” explained Dr. Sharp.

The findings of the report were based on random telephone interviews of 16,507 men and women. See details on the CDC website.

Find help to screen and refer patients who may be victims of abuse on this ISMA resources page.

Also, earn continuing medical education credit while learning more about domestic violence with ISMA’s online webinar.

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