Clinical utility of an intimate partner violence screening tool for female VHA patients

J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Oct;28(10):1288-93. doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2534-x. Epub 2013 Jul 4.


Objectives: Female Veterans are at high risk for physical, sexual, and psychological forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization. This study evaluated the accuracy of a brief IPV victimization screening tool for use with female Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients.

Design: Participants completed a paper-and-pencil mail survey that included the four-item Hurt/Insult/Threaten/Scream (HITS) and the 39-item Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS-2). Operating characteristics, including sensitivity and specificity, were calculated using the CTS-2 as the reference standard for past-year IPV.

Participants: Female veterans from a roster of randomly selected female patients of the New England VA Healthcare System. Women must have reported being in an intimate relationship in the past year to be included.

Main measures: Primary measures included the HITS (index test) and the CTS-2 (reference standard).

Key results: This study included 160 women. The percentage of women who reported past-year IPV, as measured by any physical assault, sexual coercion, and/or severe psychological aggression on the CTS-2, was 28.8 %. The receiver-operator characteristic curve demonstrated that the HITS cutoff score of 6 maximizes the true positives while minimizing the false positives in this sample. The sensitivity of the optimal HITS cutoff score of 6 was 78 % (95 % CI 64 % to 88 %), specificity 80 % (95 % CI 71 % to 87 %), positive likelihood ratio 3.9 (95 % CI 2.61 to 5.76), negative likelihood ratio 0.27 (95 % CI 0.16 to 0.47), positive predictive value 0.61 (95 % CI 0.47, 0.73), and negative predictive value 0.90 (95 % CI 0.82, 0.95).

Conclusions: For a low-burden screen, the HITS demonstrated good accuracy in detecting past-year IPV relative to the CTS-2 in a sample of female VHA patients with an optimal cutpoint of 6. The HITS may help VHA and other health-care providers detect past-year IPV and deliver appropriate care for female Veterans.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult