Detection of violence against women via screening at the occasion of request for pregnancy termination
C.D. Liengme, F. Coquillat, M. Demierre, P. Hohlfeld, S.-C. Renteria (Switzerland)
Family Planning Center, Psycho-social Unit, Department for Obstetrics and Gynecology of University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV), Switzerland
Introduction. In Switzerland one out of five women is subject to interpersonal violence at least once in her life and 24 women die from such violence every year. Several surveys show that the problem of violence is generally underestimated as only about one case out of twenty is detected. Again surveys show that women would like to be questioned about violence when consulting a doctor.
In the summer of 2007 a new chapter concerning present and past violence was introduced into medical files. Doctors or midwives complete these files, while they are taking the medical history of women requesting a termination of pregnancy. The Family Planning Centre carried out a research to see what changes resulted from the introduction of this chapter and also to see which effects, if any, taking care of women after detection had on the spiral of violence.
Material and Methodology. This quantitative retrospective survey covered 2 four-month periods, the first extending from January to April 2007 and the second from January to April 2008. The data that were analyzed were collected from the medical files kept by doctors and midwives on women requesting a termination of pregnancy or re-considering the idea, and from the files of the Family Planning Centre advisors, who interview all the women concerned according to the protocol for termination of pregnancy at the Gynecology and Obstetric Department of the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV)
Results. During these two periods a total of 451 women were taken care of. 82 of them admitted being or having been victims of violence, 21 out of 201 (10%) during the first period, and 61 out of 250 (25%) during the second period. These numbers show an increase of 150% in detected cases. A detailed analysis of the data collected concerning these 82 women will be presented: the type of violence, requests for help, legal and medical assistance provided.
Conclusion. Our study confirms the importance, for health professionals who take care of these women, of paying systematic attention to the fact that they may be or have been victims of violence. Women who are victims of violence are thus able to talk about it, to be listened to, informed and helped according to their specific needs. In the case of requests for a termination of pregnancy after a rape, the fact that the victim claims having been raped, allows the biological proof of sexual contact to be registered and kept on file.