Abuse experiences, substance use, and reproductive health in women seeking care at an emergency department

Melissa A Sutherland, Heidi Collins Fantasia, Natalie McClain
Journal of Emergency Nursing: JEN: Official Publication of the Emergency Department Nurses Association 2013, 39 (4): 326-33

INTRODUCTION: Abuse experiences can have negative health consequences for women. Many women present to the emergency department for episodic, nonemergent care and may have unique needs as survivors of abuse. The purpose of this study was to describe child sexual abuse experiences, intimate partner violence, substance use, and reproductive health outcomes in a sample of adult women who were seeking care from a rural emergency department to better understand the health care needs of this unique population.

METHODS: One hundred forty-five adult women (18-45 years old) were recruited at an emergency department in the southeastern United States. Questionnaires were used to assess for demographic characteristics, history of child sexual abuse (CSA), intimate partner violence, reproductive health, and substance use.

RESULTS: In the sample, 42.8% of women (n = 62) reported a positive history of CSA and 34.7% of women (n = 49) experienced intimate partner physical violence during the past year. More than 46% of the women (n = 65) had harmful drinking patterns in the past year and more than 50% reported some type of substance use in the past 3 months. Women who experienced CSA had a significantly greater number of lifetime sexual partners, were more likely to report pain with sexual intercourse, and were more likely to report a medical history of an abnormal Papanicolaou smear.

DISCUSSION: The women in this sample had high rates of abuse, harmful drinking patterns, and substance use and were at risk for sexually transmitted infections. Through screening for lifetime violence, including sexual violence, emergency nurses can be an important liaison between women who have experienced CSA and appropriate referrals within the health care system.

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