Background: from 1999 to 2004, an estimated 653,000 women in Canada were either physically or sexually abused by their current or previous intimate partners. We aimed to determine the proportion of women presenting to orthopaedic fracture clinics for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries who had experienced intimate partner violence, defined as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, within the past twelve months.
Methods: we completed a cross-sectional study of 282 injured women attending two Level-I trauma centers in Canada. Female patients presenting to the orthopaedic fracture clinics anonymously completed two previously developed self-reported written questionnaires, the Woman Abuse Screening Tool (WAST) and the Partner Violence Screen (PVS), to determine the prevalence of intimate partner violence. The questionnaire also contained questions that pertain to the participant's demographic characteristics, fracture characteristics, and experiences with health-care utilization.
Results: the overall prevalence of intimate partner violence (emotional, physical, and sexual abuse) within the last twelve months was 32% (95% confidence interval, 26.4% to 37.2%). Twenty-four (8.5%) of the injured women disclosed a history of physical abuse in the past year. Seven women indicated that the cause for their current visit was directly related to physical abuse. Ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and injury patterns were not associated with abuse. Of the twenty-four women who reported physical abuse, only four had been asked about intimate partner violence by a physician; none of these physicians were the treating orthopaedic surgeons.
Conclusions: our study suggests a high prevalence of intimate partner violence among female patients with injuries who presented to two orthopaedic fracture clinics in Ontario. Surgeons and health-care personnel in fracture clinics should consider intimate partner violence when interacting with injured women.