The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly affected the world by changing the ways by which people can interact with each other. To lessen the threat that the coronavirus posed on people’s health, countries have adapted strict social distancing guidelines while enacting lockdown and quarantine strategies.
While these actions were supposed to keep people safer by having them stay at home, it appears that there have been cases where the quarantined person faced more danger due to intimate partner violence (IPV).
Radiologists have been trying to help identify IPV-related injuries in recent years. A team led by radiology experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied the patterns and severity of their patients’ injuries during the spring of 2020, and after comparing their assessments with results from the last three years, they found that the incidents showing IPV-related injuries have significantly increased this year.
Dr. Bharti Khurana, the director of Trauma Imaging Research and Innovation Center at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, used patient data collected between March 11 and May 3, 2020, to identify IPV-related cases. Their team went through radiology reports and images and identified potential IPV cases based on objective signs of physical abuse. By developing a grading system based on the severity and location of the patients’ physical injuries, the team was able to systemize the results and compare it with data records from the previous three years.
The team’s research led them to 26 cases in which victims suffered physical IPV-caused injuries in the spring of 2020, which is a drastic increase from the previous years’ numbers: only 20 were reported in the spring of 2019, 2018 only had seven cases, while 2017 had 15 incidents. Overall statistics showed the same trend, as 2020 had a total of 62 IPV victims of all types (physical and non-physical abuse); 2019 had 104 cases; 106 were reported in 2018; 146 was recorded for 2017. The injuries varied from superficial bruises, strangulation injuries, burns, and stab injuries, to more life-threatening cases such as weapon-induced injuries like knife cuts, gun wounds, and other objects resulting in deep internal organ damages.
The lockdown situation meant fewer people were going out, and as such, hospitals expected fewer imaging procedures to be done. However, even with the small number of imaging tests performed, the Emergency Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Despite still encountered patients nursing severe physical injuries caused by their intimate partners.
Dr. Khurana believes that the pandemic is contributing to the rise of IPV cases not just due to the lockdown by also presenting what victims might identify as a bigger threat. “Overall, we saw a lower number of IPV victims with a greater number of deep injuries and signs of physical abuse, and this suggests to us that victims may be so fearful of COVID-19 that they aren’t reaching us until the abuse is severe,” explains Dr. Khurana. “We know that high-risk physical abuse and severe physical injuries are highly associated with homicide. Even in the middle of a pandemic, we need to recognize the signs of IPV and find opportunities to help patients in need.”
It’s time for health care professionals, including radiologists, to reach out to vulnerable communities in an attempt to lessen and possibly prevent IPV-related injuries, especially in this time of quarantine when victims have no other choice but to stay at home with their abusers.
(Source: News Medical)