The lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) among women in the United States is reported to be between 18 and 50%. One-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner and alcohol is often involved. Despite these figures, 77% of women have never been screened for IPV. Substance abuse in male partners is known to place women at risk. We examined the role of female alcohol use on rates of severe IPV. Our hypotheses were: (1) the prevalence of IPV among women seen in trauma centers is greater than that found in national surveys; (2) alcohol problems among abused women and their partners are greater than those among non-abused women; (3) females and their partners alcohol problems are each independently associated with IPV; and (4) female trauma center patients support domestic violence screening.
An in-person survey was administered to 95 consecutive adult female trauma patients admitted to a Level I Trauma Center. The survey included questions about past-year and lifetime severe IPV, female and male partner alcohol use, and willingness to participate in IPV screening and referral. The multivariate associations of female and partner alcohol use with past-year severe IPV were assessed with logistic regression.
Nearly one-half (46.3%) of women reported a lifetime history of severe IPV, with 26% experiencing severe IPV in the past year. Past-year IPV was identified in 59.1% of women screening positive for drinking problems, but in only 12.7% of those screening negative for drinking problems (p = 0.001). Similarly, past-year IPV prevalence was 55.2% when the partner was a problem drinker versus 8.3% when he was not (p = 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed that female problem drinking (odds ratio [OR] = 5.8) and partner problem drinking (OR=8.9) were independent predictors of past-year severe IPV. The majority of women (90.5%) felt that it was appropriate for health care professionals to screen for IPV; 90% of women with a history of IPV thought screening was important and 71% wished a previous healthcare provider had asked them about it.
Female trauma patients demonstrate a higher prevalence of severe IPV than the general population. IPV rates appear to be related to both female and partner alcohol misuse. Female trauma patients endorsed IPV screening and thus should be screened for alcohol use and IPV in a way that minimizes future violence risk. Further research is needed to elucidate whether intervention for alcohol misuse has an impact on rates of IPV in this population.