Penn State study shows need for better screening, care for victims of domestic violence

Health care settings can do better when it comes to identifying intimate partner violence (IPV) and following up with targeted care, suggests new research from Penn State College of Medicine

The study included 1,420 women of reproductive age, and considered whether women exposed to IPV–actual or threats of physical or sexual violence–were receiving relevant preventive health care services.

The participants responded to two surveys, two years apart. The first survey assessed whether there had been abuse within the last 12 months. For the second survey, researchers asked whether the women had received any preventive care in the last 24 months, if they had been tested for sexually-transmitted infections or if a health care provider had inquired about any concerns the woman might have about safety or violence in her home. Additional questions were asked about health care access and socio-economic status.

The researchers found that only 20 percent of women who had experienced IPV received safety and violence counseling within two years of the abuse; a mere 11 percent of all women who participated in the study had discussed violence and safety at home with a health care provider.

The authors point to a “missed opportunity” –one that presents significant costs to the long-term physical and mental health of women exposed to IPV, as well as to the health care system.

In a press release from Penn State, Dr. Jennifer S. McCall-Hosenfeld, one of the study’s authors and primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences, said:

“Our research shows that we (as a health care community) haven’t been doing a good job of identifying and counseling about intimate partner violence.” 

The results appear in an article in the March/April issue of Women’s Health Issues