Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of domestic violence among women presenting to primary health care facilities in Lebanon; to identify presenting symptoms and responses to varied forms of violence; and to examine variables associated with domestic violence.
Study design/methods: A cross-sectional survey of all women presenting to four primary health care centres in different geographic areas of Lebanon from September 2002 to October 2002. A questionnaire was administered in interview format. The following information was collected from participants: demographic characteristics, perceived health status, prior exposure and responses to domestic violence, and characteristics of the perpetrators.
Results: Of the 1418 participants, 494 (35%) reported experiencing domestic violence and 307 (22%) had family members who had been exposed to domestic violence. Among the women exposed to violence, verbal abuse or insult was most common (88%) followed by physical violence (66%); 57% reported their experiences to family, friends or authorities, whereas the remainder kept silent. Women who were exposed to domestic violence had higher frequencies of reported physical symptoms than those who were not exposed. Generally, the perpetrators were spouses who had demographic backgrounds comparable to their wives. Multiple regression analyses showed that women's education levels, work status, health status, and familial violence predicted domestic violence.
Conclusions: Women readily talk about their abuse when asked. The rate of domestic violence is high among Lebanese women and is a significant health issue. Additional research is needed to better understand the extent of the problem and to develop more effective reporting methods.