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3 in 4 Domestic Violence Victims Are Unidentified in PA Emergency Room Visits

By Sheryl Rentz on March 25, 2011

A study recently conducted by the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine found that over three quarters of victims of domestic violence, who report the events to law enforcement, receive care in emergency rooms, but the majority of them are not identified during their hospital visit as being domestic violence victims.

The results of the study were published in the online Journal of General Internal Medicine and show that women who reported assaults that were domestic-related to police heavily relied on emergency rooms to receive medical care. Close to 80 percent visited an emergency room at least one time in four years, following an assault. Most sought emergency treatment frequently, with an average of seven times each. Typically hospitals have policies in place that require screenings and intervention for victims of domestic violence, but the study found that only 28 percent of the patients examined were identified as abuse victims. This is likely due to the fact that 78 percent of visits were for medical complaints and not for violence-related injuries. Only in about 3.8 percent of emergency room visits was assault the chief complaint.

To further look into how often and how domestic violence victims were identified when they visited an emergency room, the study also looked into court, emergency room, and police records in a Michigan county from 1999 and 2002. The study found that domestic violence was four times as likely to be identified when an emergency room visit took place on the day of the police event. Healthcare providers were also more likely to identify domestic abuse among patients whose chief complaints involved substance abuse or mental health issues. According to the data, when abuse was identified, emergency room staff provided notes on a patient’s chart that were legally useful 86 percent of the time, yet only communicated with police about half the time. However, less than 35 percent of instances when domestic abuse victims were identified were any documentation written that assessed whether the patient was able to go to a safe place after they were discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, the study also found that emergency room staff referred victims to domestic violence resources in the local community only about 25 percent of the time.

Previous domestic violence studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of women have been victims of abuse during the past year. It is important for victims in Pennsylvania to remember there are laws in place to protect them, such as Philadelphia orders of protection. At The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, our Pennsylvania domestic violence attorneys can help if you have been abused and need legal representation. Call 610-645-0100 today.

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