Partner Violence Victims Not Identified in Emergency Room

Only a minority of victims are evaluated for safety and referred for intervention

THURSDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Although most victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) present to the emergency department (ED), they are not usually identified and may not receive interventions, according to a study published online March 15 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Karin V. Rhodes, M.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues investigated ED case findings and responses in a population of female victims of IPV. Police, prosecutor, and medical record data from 1999 to 2002 were reviewed to examine the ED responses to 993 IPV victims.

The investigators identified 4,306 ED visits by 79 percent of the IPV victims, which occurred after the date of a documented assault. Only 9 percent of these visits occurred within a week of the reported incident. Most ED visits were for medical complaints, and 72 percent of IPV victims were not identified as such. Factors associated with IPV identification by ED staff included the day of a police incident and self-disclosure of domestic assault. In cases where IPV was identified, ED staff only evaluated the women's safety in 33 percent of cases, and only referred them to victim services in 25 percent of the cases.

"Because the majority of victims do not present for assault or injury, case finding is unlikely to be effective for identifying patients in need of intervention. New system-level strategies are needed to ensure routine opportunities for patient self-disclosure, access to needed resources, and the ability to track outcomes," the authors write.

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