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Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Elder Abuse: Know the Basics

Course Number: 593


Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Elder Maltreatment (EM) are widespread problems that affect people from all cultural and socioeconomic segments of society. Estimates suggest nearly 10 million people every year are victims of domestic violence.1 Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience some type of severe intimate partner violence. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines throughout the county receive nearly 20,000 calls.2,3 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.3 While all health professionals are legally mandated to report suspected cases of child maltreatment to the proper authorities, mandatory reporting of cases of domestic violence including IPV and EM may vary by state. The best practice is to understand one’s local reporting laws, as failing to report when mandated could lead to a variety of consequences, including possible loss of license.4 Unfortunately, dental professionals as a group have been less inclined to report domestic abuse, especially as compared to other medical professionals.5 This must change, especially because 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.6 Dental professionals attuned to issues of domestic violence should be able to recognize and identify many of the warning signs of IPV and EM.