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Mental Health Center

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Domestic Violence Cases Common in the ER

More Women Reporting Domestic Violence Incidents, too

WebMD Health News

Sept. 4, 2003 -- Emergency room doctors see cases of domestic violence more than you might think. A new study shows domestic violence reports are up and women who deliberately hurt themselves are more likely to report abuse by a partner than women who don't.

Researchers based their findings on a two-week study done in an emergency department at a hospital in Cambridge, England. The findings appear in the September issue of Emergency Medicine Journal.

During the study, researchers analyzed 256 questionnaires from people who sought emergency treatment. They asked whether actual or threatened domestic violence by a partner had brought them in that day. Results showed that about one in 100 patients had been victims of partner abuse that was severe enough to land them in the ER. However, one in five admitted to being victims of domestic violence in the past.

These numbers suggest that among 55,000 patients visiting the ER each year, nearly 500 of them will be victims of domestic violence.

The study also points out that either domestic violence is becoming more common or that it has become less of a taboo and younger generations of women are more willing to admit to being victims. However, researchers noticed a trend in who was willing to admit they were victims of domestic violence. Women who inflicted pain on themselves were 75 times more likely to report partner abuse than women who didn't. As for men who self-inflict pain, they were twice as likely to report partner abuse compared with other men who didn't.

This finding, researchers say, could mean that people who self-harm could possess certain traits that make them more at risk to being in an abusive relationship or that domestic violence could induce self-harm behaviors -- but more research is needed.

Researchers say their results should be reviewed with caution because the study sample was small. But in any case, the numbers of people who report domestic violence will be typically lower than reality because there is evidence that many victims of domestic violence will not report abuse even when someone asks them.

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