A new national study done by the Verizon Foundation and More Magazine reveals that 76 percent of women say they have never been asked about domestic violence in a medical exam. And while 44 percent of women experience domestic violence, doctors seems to be overlooking a critical detail in their patient’s physical well being.
Domestic violence impacts every part of a survivor’s health and it’s shocking that it’s not part of the routine list of questions. The study shows that women who have survived abuse have higher rates of chronic health problems (like asthma, diabetes, digestive disease, etc.). Doctors need to ask the right questions.
The study includes personal stories like this one from a 28-year-old survivor named Juana. (Trigger warning)
Juana, 28, was brutally abused – physically and emotionally – by her husband for more than a year. Her gripping story begins with her pregnancy, during which time the physical abuse and control from her husband intensified. Her husband accompanied her on every medical exam, never giving her a moment alone with doctors to respond truthfully to their standard questions about domestic violence. After her daughter’s birth, Juana was able to briefly escape the daily abuse of her husband for more than a month. When he found her on Oct. 15, 2011, he broke into her home, brutally attacked her – beating her in the face over and over again, until she was unrecognizable. He then kidnapped Juana and her 9 month old and they were only barely rescued by police. Facial fractures from her husband’s torture left Juana with permanent double vision in both eyes. She also suffers from depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Her husband was arrested for his crimes and sentenced to 76 years in prison. Juana has never spoken publicly before.
Here are some of the findings of the survey:
- 70% of women suffer from a chronic health condition. This increases to 88% for women who have experienced sexual abuse and 81% for women who have experienced any form of domestic violence. These chronic conditions include lung disease, diabetes, digestive disease, asthma and others.
- Nearly all women (91%) feel it is important for a doctor or nurse to screen for domestic violence in an exam, but 75% say they have never actually been asked.
- Women over the age of 65 are significantly less likely to be screened for domestic violence than women age 21 to 34.
- The vast majority of women over 65 (85%) say they have never been asked about domestic violence in a medical exam, though they are no less likely than younger women to have suffered domestic violence.
- A huge number of women – an alarming 44% – say that they have experienced a form of domestic violence including physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and economic abuse (withholding money or controlling finances).
Hopefully, the media attention about this study serves as a call to action for the medical profession to rectify this glaring oversight in their treatment of patients.
Zerlina Maxwell really wants to be a superhero, but will settle for blogging.