Violence Against Women: Coming to Grips with a Public Health Problem

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The Commonwealth Fund's Commission on Women's Health has identified the pervasiveness of violence in the lives of many American women as a major public health problem. The extent of this violence and the physical and psychological harm suffered has largely been unreported and underestimated, by the women affected, by their physicians, and by society as a whole. Many acts of violence go unreported because of social stigma, and crimes committed by intimates are more likely not to be reported.

To understand better the dimensions of the issue, the Fund's Commission on Women's Health undertook a broad review of the professional literature on violence against women in American society. I am very pleased to send you the resulting paper which represents an important step in a better understanding of the different forms which violence takes against women, the numbers of women most affected, and the ways in which our health system could better respond to this serious issue.

The personal consequences of violence for women's physical and psychological health are profound, and as the authors point out, so are the social consequences—the effects of domestic violence on family life and the long term effects of child abuse on behavioral patterns.

Violence against women in American society is a subject of argument and of definition. The Commonwealth Fund is supporting a number of efforts to learn more about better ways to identify women who have been the objects of violence, and to test the most promising strategies for meeting their needs. Working with community health centers, identifying model projects for battered women, and partnering with the American Medical Association in developing a community guide are examples.

Violence Against Women

  • More than one out of every 10 women reported sexual abuse as a child, and nearly 13% reported physical abuse, compared with 2% of men reporting sexual abuse, and 9% of men reporting physical abuse.
  • Almost 3% of women reported that they had been raped in the last 5 years.
  • More than 8% of women surveyed who were between the ages of 18 and 65 and were living with a man, reported physical abuse by their domestic partners.
  • The women who reported abuse were far more likely than other women interviewed to be in poor health, make frequent visits to physicians, abuse drugs, express low satisfaction with life, experience depression, and think about suicide.
  • Only a small number of women surveyed who reported physical abuse by their domestic partner told their physician (8%), and less than half (43%) told anyone at all.

The full report is not available at this time.

Publication Details

Publication Date:
May 1, 1996
Authors:
Karen Davis
Citation:

Violence Against Women: Coming to Grips with a Public Health Problem, Karen Davis, Ph.D., The Commonwealth Fund, May 1996

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