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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 06/19/01
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Women's Health Program Helps Older Domestic Violence VIctims

Cincinnati--The Women's Health Program at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine is creating a pilot program to better understand and address domestic abuse of older women, a significantly underreported problem in the United States. According to the 1998 report The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study by the U.S. Administration on Aging, for every one substantiated case of elder abuse, there are more than five times as many unreported incidents and older women are abused at significantly higher rates than older men.

"Domestic abuse is a widespread national problem," said Barbara Rinto, MPA, administrator of the Women's Health Program. "In the last 25 years there has been a serious attempt across this country to address the problem and there has been some real success in providing women options to enhance their safety. However, insufficient attention has been paid to older women in this situation."

According to experts, older women are reluctant to report abuse because of generational differences in values including the unacceptability of divorce and more traditional male and female roles. Health care providers view domestic violence as exclusively a younger women's problem because the reported incidence of domestic violence falls with increases in age and most community domestic violence programs are not yet equipped to deal with the older women.

The Women's Health Program is developing a pilot program to increase the identification of older women who are victims of domestic abuse in the Tristate and connect them to the appropriate resources both within UC and the community. The pilot will be developed in collaboration with faculty from the UC Department of Family Medicine, the Office of Geriatric Medicine, and Women Helping Women Inc., a non-profit community organization providing a wide range of services for victims of assault, domestic violence and stalking. The pilot program will consist of three primary components, including improved screening and referral of older women; training of physicians and other professionals in the unique needs of older women; and outreach to community leaders and older women to increase their awareness.

"This program is unique because it has a community, academic and multi-disciplinary focus," Rinto said. "It crosses departments and disciplines while bridging the community and the university. Collaboration assures that new information about this problem will be translated into new services and practices more quickly."

The program received a grant of $195,000 from Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery to put toward the development of the pilot. The money came from a $34 million antitrust settlement the attorney general's office negotiated with shoe manufacturer Nine West Group Inc. last year. All 50 states and six territories signed and participated in the settlement. Ohio received $1.24 million. Montgomery led the multistate lawsuit against Nine West after allegations were made of price-fixing between the shoe company and its retail stores. Evidence showed customers were denied an open and competitive shoe market and therefore paid higher prices for shoes. Since most of the customers harmed by this illegal conduct were women, distribution of the settlement money was targeted to organizations or programs benefiting women's health, education, vocational or safety programs.

"The money given to the UC Women's Health Program is one of the largest gifts we've been able to give," Montgomery said during the check presentation to Rinto and the Women's Health Program. "We can't be happier to give it to such a great cause. There is no better way to spend this money than helping women overcome obstacles and believing in themselves."

The Women's Health Program was started in 1997 with support from the UC College of Medicine Dean's Office. The program is one of just two programs in Ohio working in a college of medicine to assure women's health issues and gender-specific medicine are addressed in medical education, research and clinical care.

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