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Media Contact: Juliette Merchant 03 April 2008    
  (404) 778-1503   Print  | Email ]

Emergency Department Screening Helps Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Victims of intimate partner violence appear to benefit from private kiosk style screening in hospital emergency departments, according to a study reported in the April 2008 issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that occurs between two people involved in an intimate relationship including current and former partners. IPV seriously harms the person who experiences it and the children who see it happen.

Beyond physical abuse that causes bruises and other injuries victims suffer emotional abuse, forced sex, threats, fear and intimidation. Each year, women are victims of an estimated 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2004, IPV resulted in 1,544 deaths. Of these deaths, 25 percent were men and 75 percent were women. IPV costs billions of dollars annually in terms of medical care, mental health services and lost productivity.

Despite guidance from the American Medical Association and the Joint Commission for screening IPV in healthcare settings, "The US Preventive Services Task Force has not recommended for or against screening for IPV because of lack of evidence about safety and effectiveness," says Debra Houry, MD, study lead investigator and assistant professor of emergency medicine, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory Center for Injury Control.

Houry and her team identified 548 victims of intimate partner violence using a patient sample triaged to the emergency department of Grady Memorial Hospital from February 2004 to April 2006. During a one-year time frame 318 individuals admitted being victims of physical violence, 132 experienced sexual violence, 120 were threatened with a weapon by their partner, 168 feared physical harm from their partner and 412 felt verbally abused by their partners.

Researchers continued to assess intimate partner violence, safety issues and use of suggested community resources with 216 victims who participated in one-week and three-month in person follow-up visits. 65 victims were contacted by phone. Overall, 35 percent of the participants said they sought help from community resources during the three-month follow-up period.

"Our study shows screening and referring patients to community resources positively impact victims of violence," says Houry. "It's a simple procedure, but has a tremendous impact -- it's proof we can make a make difference."

Left unrecognized, Houry warns, IPV has many consequences including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicide.

"IPV is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages, races, sexual orientations and income levels," says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

Kaslow, who is chief psychologist for Grady Health System and second author of the study, says, "It has a very negative impact on people's physical and emotional well being. As a community we have a responsibility to help women and children lead violence free lives. There are services that can help empower women including shelters, support groups, employment programs and resources like the Nia Project."

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