Background: National surveys show that each year in the United States approximately 2 million women are battered by their husbands. Only a small percentage of these women are identified by physicians. The objective of this research was to determine the incidence and prevalence of spouse abuse among women seeking health care in a family practice clinic (or setting).
Methods: During a two-month period, all adult women seeking health care from a family practice clinic in a medium-sized Midwestern community were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire about whether they had ever been physically assaulted by their partners.
Results: Of 476 consecutive women seen in practice, 394 (82.7%) agreed to participate. Of these, 22.7% had been physically assaulted by their partners within the last year. The lifetime rate of physical abuse was 38.8%. Only six women in the sample had ever been asked about abuse by their physician in a recent visit [corrected].
Conclusions: Although spouse abuse is common, physicians rarely ask about it. Physicians should be trained to detect and assess abuse among female patients.