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June 26, 1996

Personal Exposure of Faculty and Medical Students to Family Violence

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Emergency Medicine (Dr deLahunta) and Internal Medicine (Drs deLahunta and Tulsky), University of Rochester (NY) School of Medicine and Dentistry.

JAMA. 1996;275(24):1903-1906. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530480045039

Objective.  —To determine the prevalence of exposure to personal family violence among medical students and full-time faculty at a major medical center.

Design.  —Self-reported, double-mailing, anonymous survey conducted in September 1995.

Participants.  —Of 406 medical students and 917 full-time faculty surveyed, 787 (59%) responded, including 217 students and 559 faculty members who identified academic status and 292 women and 482 men who identified gender.

Main Outcome Measure.  —Self-reported personal experience with partner abuse, child abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

Results.  —Response rates were higher for women (69%) than men (54%) (P<.001) and were higher for faculty (61%) than students (53%) (P=.01). Of the 787 respondents, 99 (12.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 10.9%-15.6%) reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, or both by a partner during their adult life, 118 (15.0%; 95% CI, 12.8%-17.8%) reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, or both as a child, and 188 (23.9%; 95% CI, 22.0%-28.1%) reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, or both in their lifetime. Based on positive responses, a minimum of 17% of the female medical students and faculty and 3% of the male medical students and faculty have experienced physical abuse or sexual abuse by a partner in their adult life.

Conclusions.  —Family violence is a pervasive problem that crosses into the personal experience of medical professionals. The conservative estimate of partner abuse for female medical students and faculty appears comparable with the general population national estimates. The acknowledgment by physicians that family violence is a potential risk for everyone, physicians and patients alike, is a step toward enhancing the identification of abuse and initiating interventions on behalf of survivors of family violence.(JAMA. 1996;275:1903-1906)