OAK BROOK, Ill. — There was a higher incidence and severity of physical intimate partner violence (IPV) among patients seen at a large, academic medical center in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the prior three years, according to a new study published in Radiology.
“Our study showed a higher incidence of physical IPV, both in absolute numbers and proportion, with more severe injuries despite fewer patients reporting IPV,” said Bharti Khurana, M.D., principal investigator and director of the Trauma Imaging Research and Innovation Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. “This indicates that victims are reporting to health care facilities in the late stages of the abuse cycle. Fear of contracting infection and closure of ambulatory sites might be preventing victims of mild physical or emotional abuse from seeking help compared to the pre-pandemic era.”
Social distancing has proven to be effective for controlling the spread of coronavirus but with negative socioeconomic and psychological impacts. Service-oriented economies have seen increased unemployment and a higher incidence of substance and alcohol abuse and mental health disorders.
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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, reports of IPV have increased worldwide during mandatory “lockdowns” to curb the spread of the virus.
Dr. Khurana and colleagues set out to assess the incidence, pattern and severity of injuries related to IPV at Brigham and Women’s Hospital during COVID-19 pandemic. The demographics, clinical presentation, injuries and radiological findings of patients reporting physical abuse arising from IPV between March 11 and May 3, 2020, were compared with the same period over the past three years.
Data from 26 physical IPV victims from 2020 (37+/-13 years, 25 women) were evaluated and compared with 42 physical IPV victims (41+/-15 years, 40 women) from 2017 to 2019. While the overall number of patients reporting IPV was lower, the incidence of physical IPV was 1.8 times greater during the pandemic. Five victims of severe abuse were identified in 2020 (5/26=19%) compared to one each of the previous years.
The total number of deep injuries (injuries to deep internal organs) was 28 during 2020 versus 16 from 2017 to 2019. The number of deep injuries per victim was 1.1 during 2020 compared with 0.4 from 2017 to 2019. The incidence of high-risk abuse defined by mechanism (injuries due to strangulation, stab injuries, burns or use of weapons such as knives, guns and other objects that could inflict deep injuries) was 2 times greater. Patients with IPV during the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to be ethnically white. Seventeen (65%) victims in 2020 were white, compared to 11 (26%) in the prior years.