Domestic Violence

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of intimate partner abuse?

PsychCentral provides a list of several screening questions for people who wonder if they are the victim of any form of domestic abuse. In addition to asking questions about whether the reader feels excessively controlled (such as having their partner keep excessive track of daily activities and associations, or being demeaned by critical remarks, insults, and name calling), the list of questions further explores whether more obvious acts of abuse have occurred, like hitting, kicking, punching, or throwing objects. The acronym AARDVARC (An Abuse, Rape, Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection) describes a number of warning signs for friends, family members, and coworkers for recognizing people who may be victims of intimate partner abuse. Specifically, teens, men, or women who are often absent from school or work or have numerous injuries they try to explain away, like bruises or black eyes. Individuals with low self-esteem, who show a change in their personality, have a fear of conflicts, engage in passive-aggressive behavior, blame themselves, seem isolated, or demonstrate stress-related physical symptoms (for example, headaches, stomach upset, sleep problems, or skin rashes) may be experiencing abuse in their relationship.

How is domestic violence assessed?

Unfortunately, although assessing whether a man or woman is being abused in their relationship is quite manageable, less than one in 20 doctors do so routinely. That tendency compounds the difficulty posed by the victims of intimate partner violence tending not to disclose their victimization. Despite these difficulties, it is known that questions that are most effective in assessing domestic violence are open-ended as opposed to those asking for yes or no answers (for example, "How do you and your partner tend to disagree with each other?" versus "Does your spouse hit, demean, or over-control you?"). Indirect questions about things like how many emergency-room visits, injuries, or accidents they have had this year are more likely to be answered candidly than are direct questions about the cause of each injury. As with any sensitive or potentially painful topic, questions about domestic violence are answered truthfully more often when the person asked is alone with the professional, as opposed to being asked with their partner (the potential batterer), child, or other family member present during the discussion.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/5/2016

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