As to the statistics on violence against women in terms their ethnicity, the report indicated "no consistent pattern" with regard to race. Regarding abuse visited upon a woman in the year preceding her pregnancy, estimates range from 4 to 26% of the females indeed were abused in that time frame, according to the study. Clearly, there is a wide gap in these estimates, indicating the need for additional research.
Meanwhile, is there evidence that a woman's risk of being physically abused increases during her pregnancy? Saltzman's article explains that though "statements are commonly made that the incidence of abuse escalates" during the time a woman is carrying a baby, "little is actually known" regarding those generalized assumptions. Much of the information that has been brought forward with reference to that issue is "anecdotal evidence" or "small studies with self-selected participants"; these studies have not, the writer asserts, been on "comparisons of pregnant women to women who are not pregnant."
Saltzman also reports that a recent "multivariate analysis using longitudinal data from the national Survey of Families and Households" - in other words, a study that can be verified and is not anecdotal - shows that "pregnant women are not any more or less likely to suffer intimate partner violence than women who are not pregnant."
The PRAMS research that was done (PRAMS was alluded to earlier to in this paper) in order to collect more "self-reported maternal behaviors and experiences" which occur before, during, and after pregnancy, uses the information gathered in four ways: a) describes the levels and patterns of abuse; b) describes the demographic; c) describes any stressful circumstances around the time of pregnancy; d) describes a woman's relationship to her abuser.
Each month in each of the states monitored through PRAMS (currently 32 states, but this study involved only 16 states), a "stratified sample of 100-250 new mothers" was selected from birth certificates, and the mother received a 14-page questionnaire 2-6 months following her delivery. The follow-up by research to the questionnaire was substantial and thorough.
The 16-state findings: "we found the prevalence of abuse across 16 states 7.2% before pregnancy, 5.3% during pregnancy, and 8.7% around the time of pregnancy (before or during pregnancy or at both times)." In all, 64,994 women were involved in the study; half of them were between 20 and 29 years of age; two-thirds were married; for less than half (42%) it was their first birth; 76.6% were white, 19% were black and the remainder were Latino, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander.
By far the most frequent perpetrator of abuse on pregnant women, the study showed, was a "husband or partner" - 75% of the abusers - and only 5.4% of pregnant women were abused by "a family member, friend, or someone else into a single perpetrator group for comparison purposes."
Society for Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research: Are abused women more or less likely to use health care services during pregnancy? North Carolina's Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System surveyed 2,648 recently postpartum women (Martin, 2002); and the prevalence of physical abuse was 6.1% during pregnancy and 6.9% in the year before pregnancy. The study showed that abused women were "less likely" than non-abused women to "receive particular types of services during pregnancy," services such as prenatal care and classes for childbirth procedures. However, abused women were "more likely" than non-abused women to seek services like home health visits, "hospitalizations during pregnancy" and also services related to nutrition.
American Family Physician: Abuse During Pregnancy Linked to Smaller, Premature Newborns: A cross-sectional study of 372 postpartum women in the Philippines revealed that 19.4% had been physically abused during pregnancy, and 9.4 had been sexually abused during pregnancy. And significantly, the newborn babies of the abused women - within both categories - had lower birth weight, shorter birth length and smaller chest circumference measurements than the babies of non-abused mothers. The women who were abused suffered from "higher incidences of stillbirths" and more of their babies were born preterm (Neff, 2000).
Who were the primary perpetrators of the violence against this group of women? Husbands (33%), live-in partners (30.5%), and parents (29%) were accused, in that order, by the women, of visiting the violence upon them. The abused women were more likely to be unemployed (95.8%), to be younger (66.6%), to be less educated (41.7%), and to have "unemployed spouses (31.9%).
Maternal and Child Health Journal: Pregnant Adolescents: Experiences and Behaviors Associated with Physical Assault by an Intimate Partner: This research project involved 724 postpartum adolescents (up to 18 years of age) and was conducted between 1994 and 1996 (Wiemann, 2000); those taking part in the study: had to be either African-American, White, Mexican-American; had to be able to read and write at a 5th grade level in either English or Spanish; had to assure the researchers they planned to "retain custody" of their babies; had no "major psychiatric disorder"; had delivered an infant weight at least 1500 grams; and had to assure researcher they were not intimately involved with anyone other than the fathers of their babies at the time of delivery.
The study sample included 287 Mexican-Americans, 220 African-Americans, and 217 Caucasians, and each subject was interviewed privately for one hour, within 48 hours of their delivery. The results showed that of the 724 adolescent mothers, 210 (29%) had "experienced some type of physical violence" during the previous year. Eighty-six (11.9%) reported that they had been "physically assaulted by the father of their babies."
Also, 124 of the adolescents (16.9%) reported having being "physically assaulted by a family member or other relative or having been in a fight where someone was badly hurt." Of those partner abuses, 15% were reported by African-American adolescents, 11% by Caucasians, and 10% by Mexican-Americans. Interestingly, adolescent mothers who had been violently assaulted "had achieved, on average, a higher mean number of years of education," and had indicated a "lower level of both family and partner social support than those who were not assaulted."
Those adolescent mothers, who had been assaulted while pregnant, the article continues, had been exposed to more "prior and concurrent forms of violence" than those adolescents who were not assaulted during pregnancy. In conclusion, several factors were found to be linked to an elevated risk of those young mothers who were assaulted by the fathers of their babies during their pregnancy: a) "a history of the mothers having used tobacco on a daily basis"; b) a history of "frequent alcohol or marijuana use"; c) the "frequent use of any illicit drugs" other than pot; d) the "frequent use of two or more harmful substances" (that are not pot, tobacco or alcohol).
Family Planning Perspectives: Does Abuse Lead to Abortion? A survey of 486 abortion patients who were interviewed at an urban clinic in 1996 revealed that 40% of them "had a history of abuse" (Hollander, 1998). In fact, the most abuse reported was by African-American abortion patients - 57% said they had been violently abused - followed by White abortion patients (37%). The study showed that women who had been abused prior to aborting their babies "were significantly less likely than others to say that their partner knew about the pregnancy (79% vs. 89%), that he supported their decision to have an abortion (61% vs. 77%) and that he had participated in the decision (43% vs. 65%)."
As to why they decided to terminate their pregnancies, abused women were more likely to cite relationship issues (16% vs. 7%) than those adolescents who had not been abused. In terms of their answers to the question of why they terminated their pregnancies, the relationship issue was the only consistent difference between women who were abused and those not abused the article reports.
Here are few quotes from interviews with pregnant abused women from the Michigan State University study, who were asked, "What to you sense the baby might be like?" a) "Oooh, bad. Bad, like his father. Really bad (laughs). What it's gonna be, I don't know, but I sense it's gonna be bad." B) "Oh God. A lot of times I sit here and wonder, you know, from these anxiety attacks. I think my baby might be nervous, you know, and come out fluttered or frustrated because of a lot of the drama I've been telling you about." C) "Well I hope with all the stress of the way the relationship went with her father...it became violent a couple times and I was real worried about the stress...I was hoping I wouldn't have a real nervous baby that cried a lot."
American Journal of Public Health: Violence During Pregnancy Among Women With or at Risk for HIV: In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Koenig, et al., 2002), where 336 HIV-positive and 298 HIV-negative (but at-risk of…