Domestic Violence Resources
Domestic Violence Facts
Domestic violence is both a national and a worldwide crisis. According to a 2000 UNICEF study, 20-50% of the female population of the world will become the victims of domestic violence.1
Within the United States, one out of every four American women will experience violence by an intimate partner sometime during her lifetime. One out of every six women will be raped during her lifetime.4
"A Crime Against Women"
Although men are more likely to be victims of violent crime overall, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice reports that "intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women."2
Of those victimized by an intimate partner, 85% are women and 15% are men.2 In other words, women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.3
The vast majority of domestic assaults are committed by men. Even when men are victimized, 10% are assaulted by another man. In contrast, only 2% of women who are victimized are assaulted by another woman.2
Women age 16 to 24 are most likely to be victimized by an intimate partner.2
African-American women experience more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24. However, Black and White women experience the same level of victimization in all other age categories.2
Hispanic women are less likely to be victimized than non-Hispanic women in every age group.2
Women are most vulnerable to violence when separated from their intimate partner. The second most vulnerable group are those who are divorced.2 This can discourage women from leaving their abusive partner, out of fear that it will increase their risk of victimization.
Only about 1 in 5 of domestic violence victims with physical injuries seek professional medical treatment.3
Women are far more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate partner. Of those murdered by their intimate partner, 74% are women and 26% are men.2 In other words, nearly 3 out of 4 of the murders committed by intimate partners have a female victim.
The FBI reports that between 1976 and 1996, domestic violence claims the lives of more than four women each day.3
Between 1976 and 1996, there was a "sharp decrease" in the number of men murdered by intimate partners, whereas the number of women murdered by an intimate partner remained constant.3 Some have attributed this to the increasing availability of shelters which provide battered women with options other than killing an abusive partner. It is possible that some women who might have otherwise killed their abuser are able to leave and go to a shelter.
Under-reporting of Domestic Violence to Police
Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. African-American women are more likely than others to report their victimization to police.3
The most common reasons for not reporting domestic violence to police are that victims view the incident as a personal or private matter, they fear retaliation from their abuser, and they do not believe that police will do anything about the incident.3
Even with this dramatic under-reporting, domestic violence calls constitute approximately half of all violent crime calls to police departments. For example, 49% of the violent crime calls received by the DC Metropolitan Police Department in 2000 were for domestic violence incidents.6
Police Response Frequently Inadequate
Skepticism regarding the quality of police response is grounded in reality. A recent study by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department concluded that there was a "clear and pervasive pattern" of departures from departmental policy.6
For example, in only one-third of the domestic violence calls did an officer take photographs or ask about prior abuse.6
Only 17% of the victims were asked about a restraining order, and 83% were provided no printed information with contact information or resources.6
The Myth of "Mutuality"
Although many studies report that men and women use physical violence at equal rates within intimate relationships,7, 8 this fails to take into account the nature of the violence and the level of fear and injury experienced by each party.
Several studies document that women experience higher levels of fear than men do in domestic violence situations.9, 10, 11, 12, 13 This is perhaps because women in domestic violence situations are much more likely to be injured -- and injured severely -- than men are.8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of women arrested for domestic violence. For example, the percentage of women arrested for domestic violence increased in Concord, New Hampshire from 23% in 1993 to 35% in 1999. Vermont saw a similar increase from 16% in 1997 to 23% in 1999.18 Some have attributed this to the increase in "mandatory arrest" policies, in which police are required to make an arrest if there is probable cause that a person has committed domestic violence. Passage of these laws was advocated by feminists and domestic violence experts to address the inadequate response to domestic violence victims by law enforcement. When officers arrive at the scene of a domestic violence crime, they often cite evidence that both partners have engaged in some aggressive behavior, and arrest both the man and the woman. This "dual arrest" strategy fails to take into account which of two people is primarily responsible for the aggression and which one is responding out of self-defense, and can have devastating effects, particularly if there are children involved in the relationship.
To counteract this problem, some departmental or statewide policies now provide guidelines for an officer to determine who is the "primary aggressor" in a violent incident. For example, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training publishes a guidebook for officers responding to domestic violence, discouraging "dual arrests" and outlining several factors to consider when determining who is the primary aggressor in a domestic violence situation. The primary aggressor is defined as "the person determined to be the most significant, rather than the first, aggressor." Factors to consider include the history of domestic violence between the people involved, the threats and fear level of each person, and whether either person acted in self defense. These are appropriate considerations when determining who is the primary aggressor, and therefore which of the two parties should be arrested.20
Police Training Resources
For more information or to identify expert law enforcement trainers in the area of domestic violence, please contact the National Center for Women & Policing. We at the National Center have compiled a list of law enforcement trainers that we recommend, based on a review of training materials gathered from around the country. This review was conducted with funding provided by a grant from the Violence Against Women Office of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Statistics and information compiled by FMF's National Center for Women and Policing
2 Callie Marie Rennison (2001). Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim, 1993-1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ #187635. Estimates are provided from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which defines an intimate partner as a current or former spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Violent acts include murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
3 Lawrence A. Greenfeld et al. (1998). Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends. Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ #167237. Available from National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
4 Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes (1999). Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control, Washington, DC (NIJ Grant #93-IJ-CX-0012). Available from the US Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office.
5 Michael R. Rand & Kevin Strom (1997). Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Room Departments. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ #156921. Available from National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
6 Michael Cassidy, Caroline G. Nicholl, & Carmen R. Ross (2001). Results of a Survey Conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department of Victims who Reported Violence Against Women. Available from the DC Metropolitan Police Department (202-727-5029).
7 M.A. Straus (1999). The controversy over domestic violence by women: A methodological, theoretical, and sociology of science analysis. In X.B. Arriaga & S. Oskamp Eds.), Violence in Intimate Relationships (p.17-44). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
8 J. Archer (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 126, p.651-680.
9 O.W. Barnett, C.Y. Lee & R.E. Thelen (1997). Gender differences in attributions of self-defense and control in interpartner aggression. Violence Against Women, Vol. 3., p. 462-481.
10 E.B. Foa, M. Cascardi, L.A. Zoellner & N.C. Feeny (2000). Psychological and environmental factors associated with partner violence. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, Vol. 1, p. 67-91.
11 N.S. Jacobson et al. (1994). Affect, verbal content, and psychophysiology in the arguments of couples with a violent husband. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 62, p. 982-988.
12 J. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, P. Nedig & G. Thorn (1995). Violent marriages: ender differences in levels of current violence and past abuse. Journal of Family Violence, Vol. 10, p. 159-176.
13 B.J. Morse (1995). Beyond the conflict tactics scale: Assessing gender differences in partner violence. Violence and Victims, Vol. 10, p. 251-272.
14 L.D. Brush (1990). Violence acts and injurious outcomes in married couples: Methodological issues in the national survey of families and households. Gender and Society, Vol. 4, p. 56-67.
15 J.M. Makepeace (1986). Gender differences in courtship violence. Family Relations, Vol. 35, p. 383-388.
16 S.B. Sorenson, D.M. Upchurch & H. Shen (1996). Violence and injury in marital arguments: Risk patterns of gender differences. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 86, p. 35-40.
17 C. Zlotnick, R. Kohn, J. Peterson & T. Pearlstein (1998). Partner physical victimization in a national sample of American families. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 13, p. 156-166.
18 C. Goldberg (1999, November 23). Spouse abuse crackdown, surprisingly, nets many women. The New York Times, p. A16.