Orthopaedic Surgeons’ Knowledge and Misconceptions in the Identification of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women

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Abstract

Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV)—physical, sexual, psychologic, or financial abuse between intimate partners—is the most common cause of nonfatal injury to women in North America. As many IPV-related injuries are musculoskeletal, orthopaedic surgeons are well positioned to identify and assist these patients. However, data are lacking regarding surgeons’ knowledge of the prevalence of IPV in orthopaedic practices, surgeons’ screening and management methods, and surgeons’ perceptions about IPV.

Questions/purposes

We aimed to identify (1) surgeon attitudes and beliefs regarding victims of IPV and batterers and (2) perceptions of surgeons regarding their role in identifying and assisting victims of IPV.

Methods

We surveyed 690 surgeon members of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association. The survey had three sections: (1) general perception of orthopaedic surgeons regarding IPV; (2) perceptions of orthopaedic surgeons regarding victims and batterers; and (3) orthopaedic relevance of IPV. One hundred fifty-three surgeons responded (22%).

Results

Respondents manifested key misconceptions: (1) victims must be getting something out of the abusive relationships (16%); (2) some women have personalities that cause the abuse (20%); and (3) the battering would stop if the batterer quit abusing alcohol (40%). In the past year, approximately ½ the respondents (51%) acknowledged identifying a victim of IPV; however, only 4% of respondents currently screen injured female patients for IPV. Surgeons expressed concerns regarding lack of knowledge in the management of abused women (30%).

Conclusion

Orthopaedic surgeons had several misconceptions about victims of IPV and batterers. Targeted educational programs on IPV are needed for surgeons routinely caring for injured women.

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