The prevalence of domestic violence is higher than most people think. We now estimate that between 700,000 and 1,100,000 women every year seek care at emergency departments for acute injuries incurred from abuse," says Jacquelyn Campbell, professor at the School of Nursing. "That estimate does not include the significant numbers of additional women who seek care at emergency departments for indirect symptoms of abuse, such as emotional stress or chronic pain from previous injuries."
Campbell was principal investigator of a recent study in which researchers at the School of Nursing and other institutions reported that nearly four in 10 female emergency room patients have been victims of physical or emotional domestic abuse sometime in their lives, and 14 percent have been physically or sexually abused in the past year.
"This study suggests that we, as health care professionals, need to identify abuse before the patient receives a much more dangerous or even fatal injury," says Campbell. "Evidence from the study shows that all emergency departments need to develop a protocol for screening female patients between the ages of 16 and 60 for domestic violence and if necessary, making the appropriate referrals."
Campbell's work has led the Johns Hopkins Hospital to institute a domestic violence screening protocol for its female emergency department patients.
At the School of Nursing, Campbell teaches her students that domestic violence needs to be viewed as a health care issue. "Violence to women has become a tragic and even costly issue," she says. "Health care costs associated with battered women are estimated at $44 million. That is why every health care provider needs to be able to recognize symptoms of abuse."
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Campbell will give a lecture titled "Empowering Survivors of Domestic Violence, Transformation of a Healthcare System." The talk, which will be at 2:30 p.m. in Hurd Hall on the East Baltimore campus, is part of the school's annual Doris Armstrong Leadership Forum, named for The Johns Hopkins Hospital's director of nursing from 1970 to 1976.
The 3,455 women in the study were 18 and over and were seen in 11 community hospital emergency departments in California and Pennsylvania for care of various ailments not necessarily related to abuse. Thirty-eight percent of the population indicated they have been either emotionally or physically abused by an intimate partner during their lifetime, and one in every seven women reported being a victim of physical or sexual abuse in the past year.
Significantly higher rates of abuse were found among women between the ages of 18 and 39 and women in low-income households. Campbell says the study also revealed that separation from a partner is an important risk factor for abuse. Women in the survey who have ended a relationship in the past year were seven times more likely to experience abuse from the estranged partner.
Results of the study were published in the Aug. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.