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More than 4 million women each year in the United States are physically harmed by their husband, boyfriend, or other intimate partner. Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, not only hurts the women who are abused but also affects their overall health, their ability to earn a living, and their children. Although men can suffer from domestic violence, women are much more likely to be abused by an intimate partner than are men. The August 13, 2008, issue of JAMA is a theme issue on violence and human rights that includes an article about intimate partner violence among married women in India. This Patient Page is based on one previously published in the August 7, 2002, issue of JAMA.
Signs of abuse in a relationship
Domestic violence may include having your partner beat, slap, kick, or punch you. Such violence can cause severe injuries and may even be deadly. In addition to physical violence, verbal abuse, such as screaming and yelling, can include angry words that make you feel ashamed or insignificant. Emotional abuse and sexual abuse, including rape by an intimate partner, can also occur. Alcohol and drug abuse make the pattern of violence worse. Individuals who are dependent on substances are more likely to commit acts of violence against their partners.
Women who have been abused may develop sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and malnutrition, and they may attempt suicide.
How to find help
Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals care about your health and may ask you questions about violence in your home or in a relationship. If you have been abused, your doctor or health care professional can assist you in finding help and safety from your abuser. Some women may be afraid to say they have been abused, but the longer a woman stays in an abusive relationship, the more danger she and her children may be in. Abusive behavior often becomes worse over time.
IF YOU ARE BEING ABUSED, CALL THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). THEY CAN HELP YOU MAKE A SAFETY PLAN OR REFER YOU FOR HELP IN YOUR AREA.
For more information
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistshttp://www.acog.org
National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/domesticviolence.html
American Bar Associationhttp://www.abanet.org/domviol/home.html
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English, Spanish, and French. A Patient Page on posttraumatic stress disorder was published in the August 1, 2007, issue and one on helping children cope with violence in the August 2, 2000, issue.
Sources: American Bar Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Women's Association
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Intimate Partner Violence. JAMA. 2008;300(6):754. doi:10.1001/jama.300.6.754
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