Prior studies have been unclear about how social relationships between victims and offenders may be linked to the emotional, social, and physical consequences of violence.
In a new study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the University of Washington Harborview Injury Prevention Research Center, UW School of Public Health and Medicine, and Pennsylvania State University examined the association between how victims know their offenders and the adverse health outcomes of violent victimization.
“Through our research, we found—on average—victims of violence who had a closer social relationship with their attacker(s) reported worse emotional, social, and physical health outcomes,” lead author and HIPRC trainee Keith Hullenaar, PhD, says.
Many of these associations were stronger for uninjured victims than for injured victims.
“Some points of intervention when treating victims of violence may be discerning an attacker’s identity and/or determining whether they were part of the victim’s social circle assists with patient care,” says author Frederick, Rivara, MD, MPH, Director of the Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program (FIPRP) , and core faculty of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
Researchers recommend that hospitals and health agencies continue investing resources to identify family or intimate partner violence, but they also see potential benefits in identifying whether the violent offender is an acquaintance or friend of the victim. These efforts may be particularly beneficial for victims who experience unseen emotional abuse or threats of violence but don’t present any physical injuries.