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August 22, 1990

Domestic Violence Begets Other Problems of Which Physicians Must Be Aware to Be Effective

JAMA. 1990;264(8):940-944. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450080022003

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WOMEN LIVING in violent relationships pay a heavy price with their physical and mental health, and sometimes even their lives. Thirty-four percent of all female homicide victims older than 15 years are killed by their husbands or intimate partners, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation homicide data from 1976 to 1987.

Besides the acute injuries incurred from their battering relationships, these women also develop a broad range of physical illnesses and psychological problems. Typically, as the battering escalates, so do their feelings of profound isolation from the institutions and resources—including medicine—that presumably could help them.

Historically, most physicians treated the physical injuries that are a result of domestic violence and did not address their cause, that is, the patient's abusive relationship (Gender and Society. 1989;3:506-517; Int J Health Serv. 1979;9:461-492 [see p 939]).

"Physicians will often say, 'I'm not a law enforcement officer, and I'm not a social worker. I'm