Intimate Partner Violence Experienced by Physicians

J Prim Care Community Health. Jan-Dec 2020;11:2150132720965077. doi: 10.1177/2150132720965077.


Purpose: World Health Organization (WHO) defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as physical, sexual or psychological harm caused by an intimate partner or ex-partner. There are few studies describing interpersonal violence (IPV) among physicians. Our study describes IPV experienced by U.S. physicians.

Methods: This was a multicenter survey administered to 4 physician groups in 2015 to 2016. In total 400 respondents returned survey results. Measures included current IPV, childhood abuse, mental health, professional role, and demographics.

Results: IPV was reported by 24% of respondents. The most frequent abuses reported were: verbal (15%), physical (8%) followed by sexual abuse (4%) and stalking (4%). Logistic regression model found that IPV was more likely to be reported by older participants (aged 66-89), those who experienced childhood abuse, working less than full time, and had been diagnosed with a personality disorder. Women and Asian Americans reported slightly higher IPV rates.

Conclusions: Our study has implications for both medical education and intervention development. Universal screening and education that addresses clinical implications when treating peers who experience IPV are needed. Workplace interventions that consider unique physician characteristics and experiences are needed, as well as programs that support sustained recovery. This is the first survey to our knowledge that confirms that physicians experience IPV at a rate consistent or higher than the national level. We developed a standardized instrument to assess IPV in male and female physicians at various career stages. We also identified significant predictors that should be included in IPV screening of potential physician victims.

Keywords: Intimate partner violence; domestic violence; injuries; physicians; prevention.