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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 00:04 GMT
One in six women abused
Some women had been abused while pregnant
One in six women have suffered domestic violence, a study suggests.

One in five of these have been abused while pregnant.

The study, by doctors in Hull, found abuse had ranged from verbal threats to forced sexual intercourse.

Single women in their late 20s appeared most at risk and boyfriends were most likely to be the perpetrators.

Anonymous survey

Mr Stephen Ludlow and colleagues at Hull Royal Infirmary gave anonymous and confidential questionnaires to 500 consecutive pregnant women booking at the hospital's antenatal clinic.

The questionnaires were given to the women in a separate room where their partner was not allowed.

Women were asked if they had been physically or emotionally hurt by a partner or someone close to them in the past or during their current pregnancy.

If health professionals routinely screened pregnant women for domestic violence, women would be much more likely to disclose abuse and seek help
Teresa Parker
Women's Aid
Some 81 women, representing 17% of those questioned, said they had suffered domestic violence in the past.

Sixteen, representing 3% of the total, said they had experienced violence during the current pregnancy.

The women were almost evenly divided between those who had suffered emotional or physical abuse.

One in 10 of those who had experienced domestic violence said they had been forced to have sex. In one case, this was at the insistence of a relative. In another, it involved the woman's brother.

On average, the women had suffered abuse once during the past year. However, three women reported being hurt more than 12 times during the past year.

Screen women

Mr Ludlow said doctors should screen pregnant women for domestic violence.

He said: "A violent pregnancy is a high risk one with numerous adverse implications for the mother and the unborn child.

"In view of this, it could be argued that standard questions about violence should be included in the same way as questions eliciting risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking and alcohol use."

Officials from the charity Women's Aid said the figures were not surprising.

Spokeswoman Teresa Parker said: "In 2000, a study into primary care in East London also found that 1 in 6 of the pregnant women surveyed had experienced domestic violence during pregnancy.

"We have found that domestic violence often starts or intensifies during pregnancy, with domestic violence associated with increases in miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death.

"Our research indicates that if health professionals routinely screened pregnant women for domestic violence, women would be much more likely to disclose abuse and seek help."

Helpline for domestic violence
11 Dec 02 |  UK News

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