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Ann Emerg Med. 1996 Jun;27(6):741-53.

Prevalence study of domestic violence victims in an emergency department.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland, Australia



In 1992, a study of the prevalence and predictors of domestic violence victims among individuals who presented to a major public hospital emergency department was conducted to replicate a study conducted by the authors in the same setting 12 months previously. The second study aimed to investigate more accurately the presentation of current victims of domestic violence to the ED.


In a retrospective, cross-sectional study, a screening questionnaire was administered to participants to establish the prevalence of a history and current presentation of domestic violence problems among patients who presented to the ED of a major public hospital. The study group comprised a representative sample of 670 male and 553 female adults (older than 16 years) who presented to all sections of a public hospital ED during 53 randomly selected 8-hour nursing shifts over an 8-week period in 1992.


The results of the second prevalence study confirmed those of the first study. Of the 1,223 respondents in the study, 15.5% disclosed a history of adult domestic violence (8.5% of men, 23.9% of women). Women were at greater risk than men for abuse as adults (raw relative risk [RR], 3.27; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.23 to 4.79; RR adjusted for age, history of child abuse, and country of birth, 4.13; CI, 2.86 to 5.95). Women were at greater risk than men for being doubly abused (as a child and as an adult)(raw RR, 2.17; CI, 1.33 to 3.53). The second prevalence study confirmed what had been indicated in the first study: that 2.0% of women who presented to the ED (11.6% of all women with a history of adult domestic violence) were current victims of domestic violence and that these women presented mainly between the hours of 5 pm and 8 am, when no social work services were available for referral of victims.


These Australian studies support the findings of prevalence studies of domestic violence victims in ED in the United States. The prevalence and risk factors indicate the need for training of physicians and nurses in the ED about domestic violence and for provision of appropriate backup referral services such as after-hours social work services.

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