Objectives: The authors analyzed interview responses of patients at a prenatal care clinic to explore whether women who had been victims of sexual and physical abuse were more likely than non-victimized women to have experienced a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Methods: A consecutive sample of 774 prenatal patients of a large health department in North Carolina were interviewed concerning a variety of health issues, including violence and STDs. Logistic regression analysis was used to model the women's STD status as a function of their experiences of sexual and physical abuse, controlling for several potentially confounding factors.
Results: Thirty percent of the women reported having experienced at least one STD, with the most common infections being chlamydia and gonorrhea. Twenty-eight percent of the women reported having been victims of abuse; 16% reported physical abuse only, while 12% reported both physical and sexual abuse. The majority of violence was domestic in nature, perpetrated by the victims' husbands, boyfriends, male friends, and relatives. After controlling for confounding variables, the authors found that women who reported both physical and sexual abuse were significantly more likely to have experienced STDs than non-victims (odds ratio [OR] = 2.25; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.37, 3.69). The logistic regression analysis also showed a relationship of borderline statistical significance between non-sexual physical abuse and STDs.
Conclusions: Health care providers should routinely screen patients for both abuse and STDs, and they should assist identified women in accessing appropriate health, social, and legal services.