This paper reports register data concerning somatic and psychiatric hospital care on 117 battered women who were identified in a surgical emergency department and offered a treatment program. Data were collected during a period of 10 years before to 5 years after the battering in question. It was concluded that the battered woman seeks hospital care much more than the average woman of the same age. It is, however, not only traumatic injuries that bring her to the hospital, but also medical, gynecological, psychiatric, and unspecified disorders and suicide attempts. In this study it was hypothesized that this overuse of hospital care reflects the situation at home characterized by ongoing battering and other psychosocial problems. During the 5 years following the battering, the women did not show any signs of reducing their use of hospital care. It is alarming that this high use of medical care continues over years, and doctors should consider battering as one possible explanation for this phenomenon.
A sample of 150 women aged between 20 and 49 was randomly selected from the census of the city of Trondheim, Norway. Of the 131 eligible for the study, 13 refused to participate; the participating 118 women were interviewed by a gynaecologist. Detailed information about their present and previous spouse(s) and about sexual problems and gynaecological symptoms was obtained. Physical abuse by spouse had occurred in 20 (18%) of the 111 women who had ever lived in a relationship, and sexual abuse in 19 (17%). Eleven (10%) had experienced both physical and sexual abuse. A history of physical abuse with or without sexual abuse by spouse was associated with sexual problems in the present or in previous relationships. Reported abuse by spouse was also associated with a higher frequency of gynaecological symptoms at the time of interview.
In order to obtain an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse history among adult women, data from a gynecological interview of a random sample of 118 women aged between 20-49 were analysed. Childhood sexual abuse involving genital contact was reported by 8.5% of the women. Intrafamilial sexual abuse in childhood was reported by 7%, 10% of all women who had ever lived in a relationship reported sexual abuse by a violent spouse, additionally 7% had experienced sexual abuse by a non-violent spouse. 5% of all women had experienced adult sexual abuse by other than their spouse. Sexual abuse in childhood and by violent spouse was associated with a history of psychological problems and of suicidal ideation or attempts.
During an 8-month period a total of 117 battered wives, all seeking emergency surgical care, were identified. Twenty-two of the battered wives were found to have made 82 suicide attempts during the 16-year study period. This corresponds to an incidence more than 8 times that of an unselected population of women being treated because of attempted suicide in the same hospital. The suicide attempts were predominately passive methods. Although conflict with the husband was the most common triggering factor for the attempt, mental disorder of the woman was another main cause. It is concluded that the doctor, when confronted with a patient who has attempted suicide, always should consider the possibility of ongoing physical abuse. Although battering generally is not the only explanation, the physician should remember this possibility and the patient should, if necessary, be referred to proper care services.