The report is a product of the VA/HSR&D Evidence Synthesis Program.
Evidence Brief: Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence/Sexual Assault among Veterans
Intimate partner violence (IPV) includes physical violence, sexual violence including sexual assault (SA), stalking, and psychological aggression by a current or former intimate partner (i.e., spouse, dating partner, or sexual partner). Individuals of all ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds, and socioeconomic status may experience IPV/SA. Women Veterans experience IPV/SA at higher rates than women in the general US population; whether Veteran men experience IPV/SA at disproportionately higher rates than the general population is not yet fully understood. It also is unclear whether racial/ethnic minority and sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ+) Veterans experience different rates of IPV/SA than non-minority Veterans.
Investigators with VA's Evidence Synthesis Program (ESP) Coordinating Center in Portland, OR conducted the current review to synthesize the available evidence on the prevalence of experienced IPV/SA (excluding non-partner SA) among Veterans and intimate partners of Veterans by type (physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional), timing (lifetime or past-year), and sociodemographic characteristics, as well as the prevalence of past-year IPV/SA perpetration by Veterans by type and gender identity. A second aim was to describe recruitment strategies and data collection methods used in studies of IPV/SA prevalence. Investigators searched OVID MEDLINEÂ®, CINAHL, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, in addition to other sources, through July 2021. Of 824 potentially relevant articles, 33 (32 primary studies and 1 recent systematic review) met eligibility criteria and reported non-duplicative prevalence estimates.
Summary of Findings
Most available evidence pertains to experienced IPV/SA among women Veterans and IPV/SA perpetrated by male Veterans. Moderate and low strength evidence suggests that psychological/emotional IPV is the most common form of experienced and perpetrated IPV/SA among both female and male Veterans, followed by physical IPV and sexual IPV. Experienced IPV/SA among male Veterans, IPV/SA perpetrated by female Veterans, and IPV/SA among minority Veterans and intimate partners/spouses of Veterans are understudied.
VA's Center for Women Veterans (CWV) requested this Evidence Brief. Findings will be used to respond to activities required by Section 5305 of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (enacted on January 5, 2021). Activities required by the Act are intended to enhance our understanding of the scope of IPV/SA among Veterans, their spouses, or intimate partners.
Research Gaps/Future Research
Considerable variation in sampling, recruitment, and data collection methods used among available studies limits the informativeness and quality of the overall body of evidence on IPV/SA among Veterans and spouses/intimate partners of Veterans. Whether using existing health system data or newly collected data from surveys, future studies of IPV/SA prevalence among Veterans should attempt to generate prevalence estimates that are applicable to Veterans of the range of ages, sexual and gender identities, races/ethnicities, and geographic contexts present in the Veteran population. Important methods to accomplish this aim include, but are not limited to stratified random sampling with oversampling of important subgroups, such as historically under-represented populations. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on IPV/SA occurrence among Veterans (e.g., as a result of stay-at-home orders) also may be an important area of future research.
Parr NJ, Young S, Ward R, Mackey K. Evidence Brief: Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence/Sexual Assault among Veterans. Washington, DC: Evidence Synthesis Program, Health Services Research and Development Service, Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs. VA ESP Project #09-199; 2021.
To view the full report, go to www.hsrd.research.va.gov/publications/esp/ipv-sa-brief.cfm
ESP is currently soliciting review topics from the broader VA community. Nominations will be accepted electronically using the online Topic Submission Form. If your topic is selected for a synthesis, you will be contacted by an ESP Center to refine the questions and determine a timeline for the report.
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