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Intimate Partner Violence and Elder Abuse: The Basics

Course Number: 674


Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Elder Maltreatment (EM) are widespread problems that affect people from all cultural and socioeconomic segments of society, but some segments of society face inequities in risk for violence. IPV includes multiple types of violence, such as physical and sexual violence, stalking, and psychological intimidation by a former or current partner.1 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that millions of Americans are affected by IPV yearly, making it a very common public health problem.1 Nearly 40% of women and approximately 26% of men reported experiencing some type of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.2 On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines throughout the county receive nearly 20,000 calls.3,4 Experiencing IPV can obviously result in acute health issues, but can also manifest itself into chronic health issues for the victims.5 For older adults (over age 60), nearly 1 in 10 will experience elder abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. That number moves to 1 in 5 if the individual has cognitive deficits.4

While all health professionals are legally mandated to report suspected cases of child maltreatment to the proper authorities, mandatory reporting of cases of IPV and EM may vary by state. The best practice is to understand one’s local/state reporting laws, as failing to report when mandated could lead to a variety of consequences, including possible loss of license.6 Unfortunately, dental professionals as a group have been less inclined to report IPV, especially as compared to other medical professionals7 despite the fact that dental professionals are in a unique position to recognize head and neck injuries that are common results of IPV and EM. The dental office may be the most consistent place a victim receives health services and a dental professional is often the most trusted health professional in a victim’s life.8 Therefore, dental professionals attuned to issues of domestic violence should be able to recognize and identify many of the warning signs of IPV and EM and ultimately help these individuals.