The majority of prior studies examining intimate partner abuse in the
emergency department (ED) setting have been conducted in large, urban tertiary
care settings and may not reflect the experiences of women seen at community
hospital EDs, which treat the majority of ED patients in the United States.
To determine the prevalence of intimate partner abuse among female patients
presenting for treatment in community hospital EDs and describe their characteristics.
An anonymous survey conducted from 1995 through 1997 inquiring about
physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Eleven community EDs in Pennsylvania and California.
All women aged 18 years or older who came to the ED during selected
Main Outcome Measures.—
Reported acute trauma from abuse, past-year physical or sexual abuse,
and lifetime physical or emotional abuse.
Surveys were completed by 3455 (74%) of 4641 women seen. The prevalence
of reported abuse by an intimate partner was 2.2% (95% confidence interval
[CI], 1.7%-2.7%) for acute trauma from abuse, 14.4% (95% CI, 13.2%-15.6%)
for past-year physical or sexual abuse, and 36.9% (95% CI, 35.3%-38.6%) for
lifetime emotional or physical abuse. California had significantly higher
reported rates of past-year physical or sexual abuse (17% vs 12%, P<.001) and lifetime abuse (44% vs 31%, P<.001)
than Pennsylvania. Logistic regression modeling identified 4 risk factors
for reported physical, sexual, or acute trauma from abuse within the past
year: age, 18 to 39 years (odds ratio [OR], 2.2; 95% CI, 1.7-3.0); monthly
income less than $1000 (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.3-2.1); children younger than 18
years living in the home (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.5-2.6); and ending a relationship
within the past year (OR, 7.0; 95% CI, 5.5-8.9).
If the prevalence of abuse in community hospitals throughout the United
States is similar to the range of prevalence estimates found in this study,
then heightened awareness of intimate partner abuse is warranted for patients
presenting to the ED.