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Health Care Providers Should Address Violence Against Older Women

Aug 14, 2007

One in four women over age 65 has been a victim of physical, sexual or psychological violence at some point in her life, a recent survey finds, and most of the women who report abuse have experienced multiple types of violence.

Many abused older women say they experienced more than 20 episodes of violence in their lives, and the median duration for experiencing violence ranges from three years (for forced sexual contact) to ten years (for controlling behavior).

Authors of “Intimate Partner Violence in Older Women” note that their study may under-report violence: “It is conceivable that older women may not recall or may underestimate abuse they experienced in the distant past,” the study says.

Just three percent of women interviewed said that a health care provider had asked them about physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner since they were 18 years old.

Some 3.5 percent of women surveyed had experienced violence in the last five years. Authors write that there is a need for greater efforts to address intimate partner violence in older women.

The study randomly sampled 370 English-speaking women from Group Health Cooperative, which serves individuals in western Washington State and northern Idaho, through a cross sectional telephone interview that used questions from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Women’s Experience with Battering Scale to assess violence. The study appeared in a March 2007 issue of The Gerontologist (Vol. 47, No. 1, 2007). It was conducted by Amy E. Bonomi, PhD, MPH; Melissa L. Anderson, MS; Robert J. Reid, MD, PhD; David Carrell, PhD; Paul A. Fishman, PhD; Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH; and Robert S. Thompson, MD.

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