WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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19

Physical Indicators/Symptoms of Abuse


1. In Emergency Room or Walk-in Clinics:

  • Serious bleeding injuries, especially to the head and face. In the case of sexually assaulted women, there may be vaginal or anal tears that require stitching.
  • Internal injuries, concussions, perforated ear-drums, damaged spleen or kidneys, abdominal injuries, punctured lungs, severe bruising, eye injuries, and strangulation marks on the neck. Note that bruising can be hidden by clothing.
  • Broken or cracked jaw, arms, pelvis, ribs, collarbones, and legs.
  • Hair pulled out.
  • Injured knees.
  • Burns. (Cigarette burns, stove injuries and scalds are common.)
  • Multiple bruises or injuries which do not have the same cause or can not be explained by one incident. Battering victims commonly exhibit injuries on both sides of their head and trunk area. By comparison, most accident victims sustain injuries to their limbs, and primarily on one side or the other.
  • Apparent whiplash symptoms such as twisted or stiff neck and shoulder muscles, which can result from severe shaking.
  • Signs of old, untreated injuries: some women do not attend for medical services or are not allowed to do so. Evidence of previous injuries may indicate that the current injury was the result of battering.
  • Pregnancy: Many men who previously did not batter their partner begin to do so when she becomes pregnant. Pregnancy therefore is a high-risk time for battered women. Injury sites tend to be concentrated on the breasts, abdomen and genitals.

2. In Doctor's Office/Clinics:

The physical symptoms presented in a doctor's office will be similar to those presented in emergency rooms but may be of less serious or urgent nature. The most common injuries presented may include:

  • Damaged ear drums.
  • Whiplash injuries such as twisted or stiff neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Old untreated injuries that now have resulted in physical comfort or complications.
  • The woman may be experiencing depression ranging from mild to severe, and may exhibit suicidal tendencies.
  • The woman may present stress related, sometimes vague symptoms, such as insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, extreme fatigue, eczema or hair loss, weight loss or gain, gastrointestinal symptoms, hyperventilation, chest pain, pelvic pain, back pain or headaches.

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