Many pregnant women are subjected to domestic violence

A LARGE percentage of pregnant women fall victim to domestic violence.

An anonymous study conducted in 15 public hospitals in Andalucia concluded that 22.7 per cent of pregnant women have suffered emotional, physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner. The data can be extrapolated to the rest of Spain or to socio-culturally-similar countries, said the researchers.

“This is the first study of its kind in Spain, so there was no information regarding the scale of the problem,” said Stella Martin de las Heras, researcher from the University of Granada and main researcher of the study. “However, the consequences are very serious for the mother’s and foetus’ health,” she added.

The researchers gathered data asking the participating pregnant women to fill out a survey called Abuse Assessment Screen (AAS), which includes such questions as “Since you have been pregnant, have you been hit, slapped, kicked or otherwise physically hurt by someone?” or “Are you afraid of your partner?,” and by using the Index of Spousal Abuse (ISA), a scale developed to measure the severity of the aggression inflicted on women by their partner.

The results were published in the Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica and show that the prevalence of domestic violence against pregnant women in Spain is higher than in neighbouring countries, where it is estimated at anywhere between 3.4 and 8.3 per cent.

“Given these numbers, detecting domestic violence should be a common practice in prenatal care,” said de las Heras, adding that appropriate response protocols should be put in place to counteract domestic violence. “The involvement of healthcare professionals is crucial,” she remarked.

Figures showed that 21 per cent of the women suffered some sort of emotional violence, while 3.6 per cent of them were subjected to physical or sexual violence during the pregnancy. “Even though emotional violence is the most frequent form of violence, we should not underestimate physical violence because of its serious effects on the pregnancy,” warned the researcher.

In fact, 36.1 per cent of respondents said they were subjected to physical violence either “frequently” or “every day”, and 20.3 per cent of them said they had been bruised, burned or had suffered broken bones.

The researchers also looked at socio-demographic factors that could be associated with domestic violence during the pregnancy, including age, studies, work, nationality and the environment.

According to Marin de las Heras, common stereotypes did not show up in the results. “For instance, the age and the place of origin. Younger women are not more likely to suffer domestic violence during the pregnancy, and neither do women from South America or Northern Africa, compared to Spanish women,” she remarked.

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