Physically abused women's experiences and expectations of medical practitioners
AbstractBackground: The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency of physically abused women\'s medical consultations, the anatomical location of their injuries and the perceived support given by medical practitioners.
Method: The sample consisted of 42 physically abused women who made use of the services of the People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) Organisation. The group was culturally mixed, with an average age of 35.7. A descriptive ex post facto semi-structured questionnaire/interview survey was used.
Results: Of the 31 (73.5%) physically abused respondents who indicated that they had visited a medical practitioner, only seven (23%) visited their general practitioner on more than three occasions. Overall, 13 (42%) respondents were accompanied by someone on these visits. Most of the participants (n=20; 65%) acknowledged to the practitioner that their injuries resulted from gender-based violence, and the same number also identified the abuser. A large majority (n=26; 84%) recommended that medical practitioners consider a more comprehensive approach to their treatment. Suggestions included better medical treatment, emotional support, referral to other health workers, referral regarding legal issues and contacting the abusive partner. Face and neck injuries were mentioned most frequently (n=27; 67.5%). Trunk injuries (n=19; 47.5%) were mostly found on the lower back and thorax. Limb injuries (n=25; 62.5%) were often sustained on the upper limbs. On the lower limbs, the areas above the knee were most frequently injured. Overall, most of the injuries were located in publicly visible areas.
Conclusions: General practitioners are often the first professionals with whom physically abused women come into contact. More effort should be made to inform practitioners of the unique composition and acuteness of these women's needs.
Keywords: domestic violence, physical injuries, women, expectations of health care providers
South African Family Practice Vol. 47(5) 2005: 47-51