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Effect of type and severity of intimate partner violence on women's health and service use: findings from a primary care trial of women afraid of their partners

Kelsey L Hegarty, Lorna J O'Doherty, Patty Chondros, Jodie Valpied, Angela J Taft, Jill Astbury, Stephanie J Brown, Lisa Gold, Ann Taket, Gene S Feder, Jane M Gunn
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2013, 28 (2): 273-94
22929341
Intimate partner violence (IPV) has major affects on women's wellbeing. There has been limited investigation of the association between type and severity of IPV and health outcomes. This article describes socio-demographic characteristics, experiences of abuse, health, safety, and use of services in women enrolled in the Women's Evaluation of Abuse and Violence Care (WEAVE) project. We explored associations between type and severity of abuse and women's health, quality of life, and help seeking. Women (aged 16-50 years) attending 52 Australian general practices, reporting fear of partners in last 12 months were mailed a survey between June 2008 and May 2010. Response rate was 70.5% (272/386). In the last 12 months, one third (33.0%) experienced Severe Combined Abuse, 26.2% Physical and Emotional Abuse, 26.6% Emotional Abuse and/or Harassment only, 2.7% Physical Abuse only and 12.4% scored negative on the Composite Abuse Scale. A total of 31.6% of participants reported poor or fair health and 67.9% poor social support. In the last year, one third had seen a psychologist (36.6%) or had 5 or more general practitioner visits (34.3%); 14.7% contacted IPV services; and 24.4% had made a safety plan. Compared to other abuse groups, women with Severe Combined Abuse had poor quality of life and mental health, despite using more medications, counseling, and IPV services and were more likely to have days out of role because of emotional issues. In summary, women who were fearful of partners in the last year, have poor mental health and quality of life, attend health care services frequently, and domestic violence services infrequently. Those women experiencing severe combined physical, emotional, and sexual abuse have poorer quality of life and mental health than women experiencing other abuse types. Health practitioners should take a history of type and severity of abuse for women with mental health issues to assist access to appropriate specialist support.

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