Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing domestic violence

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 02 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:253

Most women welcome inquiries, but doctors and nurses rarely ask about it

  1. Rachel Jewkes, director (
  1. Gender and Health Group, Medical Research Council, Private Bag X385, Pretoria 000, South Africa

    Papers pp 271, 274

    Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, or psychological. Physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner are common problems, affecting 20-50% of women at some stage in life in most populations surveyed globally.1 Between 3% and 50% of women have experienced it in the past year.1 Domestic violence has a profound impact on the physical and mental health of those who experience it. As well as injuries, it is associated with an increased risk of a range of physical and mental health problems and is an important cause of mortality from injuries and suicide.2

    Review of international literature on risk of domestic violence shows that although it is greatest in relationships and communities where the use of violence in many situations is normative, notably when witnessed in childhood, it is substantially a product of gender inequality and the lesser status of women compared with men in society.3 Except for poverty, few social and demographic characteristics define risk groups. Poverty increases vulnerability through increasing relationship conflict, reducing women's economic and educational power, and reducing the ability of men to live in a manner that they regard as successful. Violence is used frequently to resolve a crisis of male identity. Domestic violence is often associated …

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