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BMJ. 2002 Feb 2;324(7332):271.

Reported frequency of domestic violence: cross sectional survey of women attending general practice.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and General Practice, Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences, Adelaide, Ireland.



To determine exposure to violence by a partner or spouse among women attending general practice and its association with respondents' demographic and personal characteristics; frequency of inquiry about violence by general practitioners; and women's views on routine questioning about domestic violence by general practitioners.


Cross sectional, self administered, anonymous survey.


22 volunteer Irish general practices.


1871 women attending general practice.


Proportion who had experienced domestic violence, severity of such violence, and context in which violence occurred.


Of the 1692 women who had ever had a sexual relationship, 651 (39%, 95% confidence interval 36% to 41%) had experienced violent behaviour by a partner. 78/651 (12%) women reported that their doctor had asked about domestic violence. 298/651 (46%, 42% to 50%) women had been injured, 60 (20%) of whom reported that their doctor had asked about domestic violence. 1304/1692 (77%, 77% to 80%) were in favour of routine inquiry about domestic violence by their usual general practitioner. 1170 women (69%) reported controlling behaviour by their partner and 475 (28%) reported feeling afraid of their previous or current partner. Women who reported domestic violence were 32 times more likely to be afraid of their partner than women who did not report such violence.


Almost two fifths of women had experienced domestic violence but few recalled being asked about it. Most women favoured routine questioning by their practitioner about such violence. Asking women about fear of their partner and controlling behaviour may be a useful way of identifying those who have experienced domestic violence.

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