Context Intimate partner abuse has a significant and detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of a woman. Physical abuse is often associated with sexual abuse.
Objective To examine the prevalence and nature of physical and sexual partner abuse experienced by women who request a termination of pregnancy (TOP).
Design Quantitative data collection using an anonymous, self-completed questionnaire.
Setting A pregnancy counselling clinic located within a large district general hospital in the north west of England.
Participants A sample of 312 women attending the clinic.
Results Three hundred and twelve questionnaires were returned (96.7% response rate). The prevalence rate of intimate partner abuse at some stage in the woman's life was 35.1%; 19.5% had experienced actual physical abuse in the past year; and 3.7% had experienced forced sexual intercourse in the past year. Of the latter, in over half of the cases, this may have resulted in the current pregnancy. A total of 6.6% of women in this study are currently living in fear.
Discussion The anonymity of the survey and the method of implementation encouraged an excellent response rate. The prevalence of physical abuse was higher than that reported in previous studies, however the prevalence of sexual abuse was lower. Up to 2% of requests for TOP could have been due to recent forced sexual intercourse.
Conclusions Many women requesting a TOP have been, or still are, in violent relationships. Some women may attend with an unwanted conception following sexual assault by their current or previous intimate partner.
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