A new national study released on Oct. 22 reveals that although 44% of women experience domestic violence, 76% say they have never been asked about domestic violence in a medical exam.
We’re also discovering that victims of domestic violence are significantly more likely to contract chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes, digestive disease, etc., which reinforces the need for doctors to make the connection between domestic violence and illness, ask the right questions, and know what to look for.
This new data provided by the study is particularly relevant with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Among the key findings of the “Verizon Foundation and More Magazine Survey”:
- This is the first study to be made public showing that 70% of adult, American women over the age of 21, suffer from a chronic health condition.
- The existence of chronic health conditions increases to 88% for women who have experienced sexual abuse and 81% for women who have experienced any form of domestic violence. These chronic conditions include lung disease, diabetes, digestive disease, asthma and others.
- Nearly all women (91%) say it’s important for health professionals to screen for domestic violence in an exam; but 75% say they have never actually been asked.
- Women over the age of 65 are significantly less likely to be screened for domestic violence than women age 21 to 34.
- The vast majority of women over 65 (85%) say they have never been asked about domestic violence in a medical exam, though they are no less likely than younger women to have suffered domestic violence.
- A huge number of women - an alarming 44% - say that they have experienced a form of domestic violence including physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and economic abuse (withholding money or controlling finances).
Juana, 28, is a kidnapping and domestic violence survivor who shared her story, and can attest to the link between domestic violence and health problems.
Juana was viciously abused both physically and emotionally for over a year by her husband.
Her story begins with her pregnancy, during which time the physical abuse and control from her husband intensified. Her husband accompanied her on every medical exam, never giving her a moment alone with doctors to respond truthfully to any standard questions about domestic violence.
After her daughter’s birth, Juana was able to briefly escape the daily abuse of her husband for more than a month.
When he found her on Oct. 15, 2011, he broke into her home, brutally attacked her, and beat her face over and over until she was unrecognizable.
He then kidnapped Juana and her 9 month old and they were only barely rescued by police. Facial fractures from her husband’s torture left Juana with permanent double vision in both eyes. She also suffers from depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
Juana’s husband was arrested for his crimes and sentenced to 76 years in prison. She has never spoken publicly about her abuse before now.
Rose Stuckey-Kirk, Verizon Foundation President, is a leading national advocate for domestic violence awareness and is one of the experts associated with the new study’s findings regarding the link between domestic violence and increased levels of chronic health problems.
Kirk also has a personal connection to domestic violence. Her sister died at age 29 of a chronic health problem that was exacerbated by abuse that she endured from someone close to her.
“I decided at 15 that would have an impact, that I was never going to allow myself to be in that situation,“ Kirk said.
If you or anyone you know feels like you’re in danger or needs immediate help, contact the local police or dial 911.
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