Injuries from intimate partner and sexual violence: Significance and classification systems

J Forensic Leg Med. 2012 Jul;19(5):250-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2012.02.014. Epub 2012 Mar 6.


While intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence (SV) are highly associated with injury, the healthcare and legal significance of these injuries is controversial.

Purpose: Herein we propose to explore the significance of injury in IPV and SV and examine the current status of injury classification systems from the perspectives of the healthcare and criminal justice systems. We will review current injury classification systems and suggest a typology of injury that could be tested empirically.

Findings: Within the published literature, we found that no commonly accepted injury typology exists. While nuanced and controversial issues surround the role of injury detection in the sexual assault forensic examination, enough evidence exists to support the continued pursuance of a scientific approach to injury classification. We propose an injury typology that is measurable, is applicable to the healthcare setting and criminal justice system, and allows us to use uses a matrix approach that includes a severity score, anatomic location, and injury type. We suggest a typology that might be used for further empirical testing on the validity and reliability of IPV and SV injury data.

Conclusion: We recommend that the community of scientists concerned about IPV and SV develop a more rigorous injury classification system that will improve the quality of forensic evidence proffered and decisions made throughout the criminal justice process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law
  • Data Collection / ethics
  • Forensic Medicine / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Forensic Medicine / methods
  • Genitalia / injuries
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Offenses* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / transmission
  • Violence* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification*