Statement on intimate partner violence

The following statement was developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma and was approved by the Board of Regents at its June 6–7 meeting.

The ACS recognizes that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health problem for intimate partners of both genders, including heterosexual and same-sex partners, with victims frequently needing surgical care.

  • IPV, also referred to as domestic violence, can be defined as actual or threatened physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse by a current or former partner or spouse.
  • IPV among women of child-bearing age is the leading cause of serious injury and the second-leading cause of injury and death. There is no distinction for age, race, culture, status, class, education, or religion. The cumulative lifetime risk of battering for women is estimated to be 24 percent to 54 percent. IPV is associated with 33 percent to 50 percent of female homicides and 25 percent of female suicide attempts.1
  • IPV abuse victims are at increased risk for developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and getting involved with drugs and abusing alcohol.2
  • The failure to diagnose IPV is the failure to identify a disease process that is likely to recur, possibly with lethal consequences. Routine screening with explicit questioning using the Partner Violence Screen without the partner present is the most effective way to make the diagnosis.3 Access the three-question Partner Violence Screen.
  • It is the responsibility of the treating surgeon not only to care for the immediate injury and to reassure the patient, but also to identify resources in his or her hospital and to help identify resources in the community.4,5
  • Surgeons are encouraged to play a leadership role in their communities, hospitals, and medical schools in initiatives to prevent and treat domestic violence.4,5

The ACS supports legislation and policies that enhance judicial and law enforcement tools to combat IPV, to improve services for victims of IPV, and to prevent violence, including youth violence and violence against women.


  1. Sisley A, Jacobs LM, Poole G, Campbell S, Esposito T. Violence in America: A public health crisis—domestic violence. The Violence Prevention Task Force of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. J Trauma. 1999;46(6):1105-1113. Accessed December 13, 2013.
  2. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Violence against women fact sheet. Available at: Accessed January 4, 2014.
  3. Feldhaus KM, Koziol-McLain J, Amsbury HL, Norton IM, Lowenstein SR, Abbott JT. Accuracy of three brief screening questions for detecting partner violence in the emergency department. JAMA. 1997;277(17):1357-1361.
  4. Mattox KL, Moore EE, Feliciano DV, eds. Trauma. 7th ed. New York: McGraw Hill; 2013;890-895.
  5. Davis JW, Sise MJ, Albrecht R, Kuhls DA. American Association for the Surgery of Trauma Prevention Committee topical updates: Getting started, fall prevention, domestic violence and suicide. J Trauma. 2011;70(4):996-1001.

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