One in four women report severe abuse in their lifetime
February 27, 2004
By Becky Ham, Science Writer
Health Behavior News Service
More than half of the women had experienced some kind of physical or emotional abuse in their lifetimes, conclude Alice Kramer, R.N., M.S., and colleagues from Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee in their Women’s Health Issues report. Younger, poorer and less educated women were more likely to be abuse victims.
And although 83 percent of the women in the study thought it was a good idea for doctors and nurses to ask about abuse as routine health care, only 25 percent of the women said they had ever been asked about abuse by their health care provider.
“Health care providers often underestimate the realities of abuse in the lives of their patients, and physicians and nurses may unwittingly contribute to a woman’s reluctance to disclose,” Kramer says.
Kramer and colleagues collected the information on abuse from anonymous surveys of 1,268 women who visited 24 emergency rooms and primary care clinics in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Abused women report poorer health and are more likely to experience headaches, gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain, sexually transmitted diseases, depression and suicidal thoughts than non-abused women, the researchers found.
Despite this, only 26 percent of the women who said they were abused had sought health care because of the abuse.
“Women may only relate abuse directly with injuries and not associate their stress and ongoing abuse with other health problems, nor identify the health care system as a place where they could go for help,” Kramer and colleagues say.
Those surveyed said they would be more likely to disclose abuse to their doctors if they were asked directly about it in a confidential and unhurried way. Many women also said they were more likely to disclose abuse to female providers who spoke their same language.
Emotional abuse was the most frequently reported form of abuse and overlapped significantly with both physical and sexual abuse. Women who used health care in urban areas reported the highest levels of lifetime and recent abuse, while women in rural areas had higher lifetime rates of physical and sexual abuse than suburban women.
The study was supported by Aurora Health Care.
Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Sue Pierman, Aurora Media Relations at (414)-647-6432 or email@example.com.
Women’s Health Issues: Contact Editor Carol S. Weisman, Ph.D., at (202) 863-4989.
Center for the Advancement of Health
Contact: Ira R. Allen
Director of Public Affairs
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