Background: Information about violence in a given community is usually based on crime statistics. The aim of this study was to explore violence in an urban community from the perspective of an accident and emergency department.
Material/methods: All assault victims treated at the Bergen Accident and Emergency Department (AED) during a two-year period (1994-1996) were prospectively registered, and data were collected about the patients and the assault incidents. To assess the proportion of unrecognized assault victims treated at the AED, an anonymous questionnaire was sent to all adult patients (first-time consultations) who visited the AED during a ten-day period in 1997.
Results: 1803 assault victims were registered, 433 of whom (24%) were females. Most of the victims were young men assaulted at public locations, under the influence of alcohol, often by unknown attackers, and frequently feeling that the attack was unprovoked (and thus defined as street violence). Few victims of child abuse or elder abuse were identified. About 40% of the females were victims of domestic violence. Non-Norwegians, unemployed, and people living in economically deprived areas of the community were over represented. A minority of the assault victims wanted to press legal charges. From the postal survey (n=1264, response rate 43%) few unrecognized victims of violence could be identified among our patients.
Conclusions: An accident and emergency department registration of violence victims will mostly identify male victims of street violence.