Effect of Abuse by a Close Family Member on Health

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Abstract

Purpose

To examine the effects of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse on physical and psychological health among Icelandic women visiting an emergency department (ED) or high-risk prenatal care clinic (HRPCC). We hypothesized that the women's previous experience of abuse by a close family member and current experiences of abuse by an intimate partner, would predict their physical and psychological health.

Method

A cross-sectional study design was used. Data were collected using questionnaires (e.g., Women Abuse Screening Tool (WAST) and semistructured interviews, from a sample of 208 women (101 visiting the ED and 107 visiting the HRPCC).

Results

For the women seen in the ED, their experience of previous sexual abuse by a close family member, emotional abuse within the preceding year, and current abuse predicted the women's psychological health. For the women seen at the HRPCC, their previous experience of physical abuse, sexual abuse by a close family member, and being currently in an abusive relationship significantly predicted the women's psychological health.

Conclusions

Women in Iceland, who are survivors of abuse, seek healthcare services from EDs and high-risk prenatal clinics. The complex effects of both former and current abuse on women's health indicates the importance of regular screening for abuse against women.

Clinical Relevance

Offering appropriate interventions within emergency departments and high-risk prenatal clinics to women who are victims of abuse is vital.

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