Domestic violence & sexual abuse in women physicians: associated medical, psychiatric, & professional difficulties

Physicians have been called on to identify victims of domestic violence (DV) and sexual abuse (SA). Few data exist, however, on the prevalence of DV and SA in physicians themselves or on the personal or professional sequelae of such experiences. We determined the reported lifetime prevalence of DV and SA among women physicians and the personal characteristics, health-related factors, and work-related factors associated with these forms of abuse. We used data from the Women Physicians’ Health Study, a large (n = 4501 respondents), nationally distributed questionnaire study that included questions on DV and SA histories, personal characteristics, and psychiatric, medical, and work-related histories. We compared the characteristics of women physicians with and without histories of DV or SA. The logistic models indicate that women physicians reporting DV histories (3.7% of the population) were significantly (p < 0.05) less likely to be single and significantly more likely to report depression histories, suicide attempts, substance abuse, current or past cigarette smoking, severe daily stress at home, chronic fatigue syndrome, and DV experienced by their mothers. Women physicians reporting SA histories (4.7% of the population) were significantly more likely to be younger than 60 years, identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, to have specialized in psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, or emergency medicine, and to report histories of depression, suicide attempts, eating disorders, and fair or poor perceived health status. Although the reported lifetime prevalence of DV and SA among women physicians is below other reported figures, such experiences are associated with medical and psychiatric difficulties that could negatively affect them personally and professionally. Doyle JP, Frank E, Saltzman LE, McMahon PM, Fielding BD

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