OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Domestic violence was responsible for 16 percent of emergency room assault visits during 2002 in Oklahoma, including 35 percent of visits by women and 3 percent by men, according to a federal report released Friday.
In addition, a survey conducted between 2001 and 2003 revealed that 5.9 percent of women aged 18-44 reported a domestic violence injury during the previous year, according to the findings of researchers in Oklahoma that are outlined in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publication.
The findings demonstrate the need for public services for victims of domestic violence in the state, including law enforcement and programs that help women get out of dangerous situations, according to Sheryll Brown, an epidemiologist at the Oklahoma Department of Health who spearheaded the domestic violence survey.
``I think this has a particular message to the need for services for people experiencing violence of this type,'' Brown said. ``Clearly, it's a stigmatizing condition and is often not reported by women.''
Oklahoma researchers analyzed injury data from emergency room medical records and the Oklahoma Women's Health Survey. The findings are summarized in a publication known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers reviewed almost 4,000 emergency room records on assault cases at 118 hospitals in the state and documented 648, or 16 percent, as intimate partner violence cases, the report states. Of those cases, 575, or 35 percent, involved women and 73, or 3 percent, involved men.
The report also revealed that black women had the highest rate of intimate partner violence injuries among all age groups in Oklahoma in 2002.
The injury rate among black women over the age of 15 was 4.7 times higher than the rate for white women and 2.8 times higher than the rate for American Indian and Alaska native women, the report said.
Intimate partners included current and former marital and non-marital partners, dating partners and same-sex partners.
``You have to remember that this type of violence is typically related to poverty and circumstances where there is a lack of resources and practical alternatives to her leaving the relationship,'' Brown said.
Based on the data, an estimated 2,457 domestic violence assaults were treated in hospital emergency rooms statewide in 2002, the report states. Ninety-one percent of the cases involved women.
``We believe this is a substantial number of people, particularly women, being treated in emergency departments each year,'' Brown said.
The most frequently injured body regions were the head, neck and face and most injuries, 83 percent, were soft-tissue injuries, according to the report. Sixteen percent of domestic violence victims suffered sprains and strains, 10 percent had fractures and dislocations and 7 percent had brain injuries.
Most domestic violence injuries are treated in hospital emergency rooms, but the survey revealed that documented cases represent only 10 percent of women who were injured by their partners, Brown said.
``I think anytime there are injuries, particularly those kinds of injuries described to the head, neck, face, bruises, cuts and scrapes, that is certainly a sign to medical providers to make a more in-depth inquiry,'' she said.
Brown also said services should be directed toward children who are caught up in domestic violence situations and witness an attack.