Public Policy

Health Care and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a health care issue. Approximately one in four women is abused at some point in her life, and it is estimated that women make close to 700,000 visits to the health care system per year as a result of injuries due to physical assault. More than 1 in 3 women who seek emergency room care for violence-related injuries were injured by a boyfriend or spouse, and about 324,000 pregnant women are battered each year. In fact, homicide is the second leading cause of death for pregnant and recently pregnant women. Get the Facts.

In addition to abuse-related injuries, domestic violence contributes to a number of chronic health problems, including depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse and often limits the ability of women to manage other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Violence is also linked to a wide array of reproductive health issues, including STD and HIV transmission, miscarriages, and risky sexual behavior. Despite these facts, a critical gap remains in the delivery of health care to battered women, with many providers discharging women without addressing the underlying cause of their injuries.

Health care providers are in a unique position to help victims of abuse, if they know how to detect domestic violence and provide victims with referrals and support. The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 included funding for programs to help health care providers identify victims of violence and refer them to the appropriate services.

Follow the links for more information on domestic violence and health care: