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IPV Victims Can Have Distinct Injuries

Feb 9, 2009

A new study finds that women who are victims of intimate partner violence tend to have different facial injuries than women who suffer trauma to their faces from other causes. Domestic violence victims were most likely to suffer from complicated breaks in the cheekbones, cracks or breaks in bones around the eye, and intracranial (brain) injuries. Victims assaulted by unknown or unidentified assailants were more likely to have jaw fractures.

Researchers hope the findings will help health care providers recognize patients who have experienced domestic violence more easily. “Underreporting of intimate partner violence remains a hindrance to appropriate social intervention for many victims,” the authors write. “While our study was limited to facial trauma victims, it demonstrates that universal screening and examination of the patterns of presentation, including patterns of injury, can assist medical professionals in identifying these patients and initiating appropriate medical and social intervention.”

“For more than a decade, we have known that when health care providers assess patients for domestic violence and refer those who need help to local domestic violence programs, it can save victims’ lives,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “But not nearly enough doctors, nurses and other providers are doing this. By identifying the types of facial injuries that victims of domestic violence are likely to suffer, and noting that they often experience delays in getting medical care, this study can make it even easier for surgeons and other providers to recognize when patients are victims of violence -- and create an even more urgent mandate for them to intervene.”

Authors reviewed the medical and dental records of 326 women treated for facial trauma at one university medical center between 1998 and 2004. Common causes of facial injury included motor vehicle crashes and falls, as well as assaults. Of the 45 patients who were assault victims, 18 were documented victims of intimate partner violence, while 24 could not or did not identify their assailant.

“Maxillofacial Injuries and Violence Against Women” is published in the January/February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, one of the Journal of the American Medical Association journals.

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