A research team led by Dr. Bharti Khurana assessed the incidence, pattern, and severity of injuries related to intimate partner violence at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the past three years. They found while the overall number of intimate partner violence patients was lower (26), the incidence was 1.8 times greater during the study period of March 11 to May 3. In addition, five victims of severe abuse were identified during the pandemic, compared with one in each of the previous years.
Khurana, director of the Trauma Imaging Research and Innovation Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital, led a team that calculated that the total number of injuries to deep internal organs from partner violence was 28 during 2020 versus 16 from 2017 to 2019. They also found the number of deep injuries per victim was 1.1 during 2020 compared with 0.4 from 2017 to 2019.
In addition, the incidence of high-risk abuse (injuries due to strangulation, stab injuries, burns, or use of weapons such as knives, guns, and other objects) was two times greater during the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of demographics, 17 (65%) victims in 2020 were white, compared with 11 (26%) in the prior years.
The study results indicate victims are reporting to healthcare facilities in the late stages of the abuse cycle, likely due to fear of contracting COVID-19 and closure of ambulatory medical sites, according to the authors.
Radiologists and other healthcare providers should proactively participate in identifying intimate partner violence victims, Khurana and colleagues said. Reaching out to vulnerable communities is an essential service during the pandemic and other crisis situations, they added.
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