Background: Domestic violence occurs across all social, demographic, and economic strata of society, though women who report it are disproportionately young, unmarried, live with a male friend or family member other than a husband, engage in substance abuse, and are poor.
Goal: To assess the prevalence of domestic violence among a sample of women presenting for care at a sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic, and to identify behavioral and clinical correlates of domestic violence in this group.
Study design: Women attending an inner-city STD clinic were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire that ascertained demographic, clinical, and behavioral information. Questions regarding recent and lifetime physical and verbal abuse by a social intimate were included. Standard diagnostic tests and therapy for a variety of genitourinary infections were provided when indicated as a matter of routine care.
Results: Three hundred and seventy-five female clinic attendees completed the questionnaire. One hundred and forty one (37.6%) women reported ever having experienced physical assault by an intimate, and 123 (32.8%) reported verbal threats of violence. Fifty-eight (15.5%) women reported at least one episode of physical abuse in the year preceding participation. A report of physical violence was associated with drug use, STD history, and a history of a serious medical condition (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The high prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking care at an inner-city STD clinic suggests that these sites may be important for the detection of abuse victims. Clinic staff should be trained to inquire about domestic violence. On-site or referred resources (e.g., legal, social, clinical) should be made available to these women.