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Detection of domestic violence by a domestic violence advocate in the ED.

BACKGROUND: The current domestic violence (DV) literature has evaluated the incidence and prevalence of DV via written surveys and verbal questioning performed by a variety of health care professionals.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to examine the prevalence of DV as obtained by a full-time, trained DV advocacy coordinator using direct patient interviewing in our emergency department (ED), and to compare our results with the published literature.

METHODS: The DV advocacy coordinator randomly selected and interviewed female patients presenting to the ED with various complaints during daytime hours. Participation was voluntary, and patients were excluded if they were too ill or injured to answer questions. We performed a retrospective review of data obtained through our DV advocacy coordinator's screening interviews of female patients presenting to the ED over a period of 1 year. Acute incidence and lifetime prevalence of DV was determined and compared to results reported in the literature.

RESULTS: The domestic violence advocacy coordinator screened a total of 1550 patients over the study period. Domestic violence incidence and lifetime prevalence as detected by the coordinator was determined to be 4.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.9-6.0%) and 27.5% (95% CI 25.3-29.8%), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Although the lifetime DV prevalence of 27.5% uncovered by our trained DV advocacy coordinator is similar to other reports, the acute incidence of 4.8% is higher than most other reported results using personal interviews. The use of a trained DV coordinator may improve detection rates of domestic violence in the ED.

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