Jan 31, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Abigail Reese
Abigail L. Reese, CNM, MSN, is a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her master of science in nursing at the Yale School of Nursing. She has worked at a birth center on the U.S./Mexico border, and coordinated a federal women’s health grant in Vermont. This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series.
My resolution for the U.S. health care system in 2014 is to make strides in addressing one of the greatest health disparities affecting women and girls in this society and the world over: the experience of interpersonal and sexual violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that, in this country, one out of every five women has experienced rape or attempted rape. One in four has experienced “severe physical violence” at the hands of an intimate partner. Furthermore, the evidence tells us that victimization and its consequences begin early. Nearly half of all women who experience rape are assaulted before the age of 18, and 35 percent will be re-victimized during their lifetime.
Those of us who provide health care services to women are first-hand witnesses to the health-related consequences of interpersonal and sexual violence. These women are at greater risk for a range of potentially devastating health problems including: debilitating depression and anxiety, substance use disorders, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and giving birth to preterm or low birth weight infants. They have higher reported rates of frequent headaches, chronic pain (including chronic pelvic pain), diabetes, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome, among other conditions. Therefore, many of the symptoms and conditions that bring women into our care are related to their experiences of violence.