Prevalence of domestic violence in community practice and rate of physician inquiry

Fam Med. 1992 May-Jun;24(4):283-7.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Community Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role
  • Prevalence
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis
  • Spouse Abuse / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence*