Domestic violence in a UK abortion clinic: anonymous cross-sectional prevalence survey

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Abstract

Objective

To measure the prevalence of domestic violence (DV) experienced by women seeking termination of pregnancy (TOP) in a UK abortion clinic.

Methods

A cross-sectional anonymous questionnaire survey of all women aged over 16 years accessing a TOP clinic in inner London between 20 May 2012 and 2 July 2012. The main outcome measures were: distribution of questionnaires, response rate, lifetime prevalence of abuse, past-year prevalence of physical and sexual abuse, prevalence of physical abuse during current pregnancy, relationship of lifetime abuse to number of terminations, and receptivity to DV services.

Results

Questionnaires were distributed to 46% (383/828) of women accessing the clinic. Response rate was 50% (190/383). Lifetime prevalence of abuse was 16%. Past-year prevalence of physical abuse was 11% and sexual abuse was 4%. Prevalence of physical abuse during the current pregnancy was 4%. Prevalence of lifetime abuse was lower in women having a first termination (12%) versus one (20%) or two or more previous terminations (24%), although this was not statistically significant (p=0.192). The majority (75%) of participants expressing an opinion on the possibility of having a support service for DV in the abortion clinic setting were positive, unrelated to their personal experience, but some concerns were raised about implementation.

Conclusions

In order to provide effective support for women, services require a needs assessment of their local population. Asking women presenting for abortion about DV, even anonymously, is challenging but feasible. Future work should be directed to women's unmet safety needs.

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