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Last Updated: 3/22/2013  

Intimate Partner Violence

Diagnosis
  • Before inquiring about abuse or obtaining an abuse history, inform patients of the confidentiality of the information.

  • Ask directly about intimate partner violence as part of the history and physical exam during pregnancy and when there are symptoms associated with abuse; consider asking at initial visits and when relationship status changes.

  • When abuse is disclosed, ask patients about the frequency, severity, duration, pattern, and impact of abuse and look for signs of injury on physical examination

  • Once a patient indicates she or he is being abused, address immediate safety needs.

Therapy
  • Consider consultation with a provider experienced in working with survivors of intimate partner violence or a mental health professional.

  • Hospitalize patients who are in unsafe conditions and have no other options.

  • Validate the patient's experience, offer referrals to appropriate local and national resources, and schedule close follow-up.

  • Emphasize that danger often increases over time, the need for safety precautions if the victim decides to leave the perpetrator, and the negative effect of abuse on the health of her and her children.

DOI: 10.7326/d221
The information included herein should never be used as a substitute for clinical judgment and does not represent an official position of ACP.
Disclosures:
Carole Warshaw, MD has no financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies, biomedical device manufacturers, or health-care related organizations. Ellen Mason, MD has no financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies, biomedical device manufacturers, or health-care related organizations. Megan H. Bair-Merritt, MD, MSCE has no financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies, biomedical device manufacturers, or health-care related organizations.
Deborah Korenstein, MD, FACP, Editor in Chief, ACP Smart Medicine, has no relationships with any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients. Richard B. Lynn, MD, FACP, Editor, ACP Smart Medicine, has no relationships with any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients.
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