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The Gerontologist 47:34-41 (2007)
© 2007 The Gerontological Society of America

Intimate Partner Violence in Older Women

Amy E. Bonomi, PhD, MPH1, Melissa L. Anderson, MS2, Robert J. Reid, MD, PhD2, David Carrell, PhD2, Paul A. Fishman, PhD2, Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH3 and Robert S. Thompson, MD2

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Amy E. Bonomi, Department of Human Development and Family Science, The Ohio State University, 1787 Neil Avenue, 135 Campbell Hall, Columbus, OH 43214. E-mail: bonomi.1{at}

Purpose: We describe the prevalence, types, duration, frequency, and severity of intimate partner violence ("partner violence") in older women. Design and Methods: We randomly sampled a total of 370 English-speaking women (65 years of age and older) from a health care system to participate in a cross-sectional telephone interview. Using 5 questions from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and 10 questions from the Women's Experience with Battering (WEB) Scale, we assessed a woman's exposure to partner violence. We estimated lifetime partner violence prevalence using the BRFSS questions (physical, forced intercourse, forced sexual contact, verbal threats, and controlling behavior), and we estimated past-5-year and past-year prevalence using the BRFSS and the WEB Scale. We estimated violence frequency, duration, and severity using the BRFSS questions. Results: According to the BRFSS, lifetime partner violence prevalence was 26.5%; 18.4% of women experienced physical or sexual violence and 21.9% experienced nonphysical violence (threats or controlling behavior). According to the BRFSS and WEB Scale, past-5-year violence prevalence was 3.5%, and past-year violence prevalence was 2.2%. Many abused women reported more than 20 episodes of violence in their lifetime (from 18.1% for physical violence to 61.2% for controlling behavior). The median duration ranged from 3 years (forced sexual contact) to 10 years (controlling behavior). The proportion of abused women rating their abuse as severe ranged from 39.1% (forced sex or sexual contact) to 70.7% (threats). Implications: The high lifetime partner violence occurrence, frequency, duration, and severity, coupled with results from prior studies indicating long-term adverse health effects of partner violence, suggest a need for increased efforts to address partner violence in older women.

Key Words: Domestic violence • Intimate partner violence • Prevalence • Assessment • Women

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Copyright © 2007 by The Gerontological Society of America.