Study Finds Decline in Domestic Violence

The rate of intimate partner violence declined by more than half from 1993 to 2004, according to a survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the US Department of Justice. A preamble to the data notes that violence between intimates is particularly hard to measure, as victims are largely reluctant to report the crime for fear of retaliation or shame. The data was gathered by the National Crime Victimization Survey rather than solely relying on police reports, in order to include incidents that weren’t reported to police.

According to the study, women are far more likely than men to be victims of fatal and nonfatal violence by an intimate partner, regardless of age, income, marital status or home ownership. Black women experience nonfatal intimate violence at a higher rate than white women, and while overall incidents of nonfatal violence have dropped, the rate of nonfatal violence against black women actually increased from 2003 to 2004. People with low annual incomes and those living in rental housing are also victimized at a higher rate than those who are wealthier and/or own a home. The study also found a drastic decline in the number of male victims of fatal intimate violence (from 1,348 incidents in 1976 to 385 in 2004), while the decrease for female victims has been much slower (from 1,596 incidents in 1976 to 1,159 in 2004).

Analysts speculate that the lower rate of intimate violence may be linked to better police training and more funding for prosecution as a result of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act or the declining violent crime rate in general (it reached its lowest recorded level in 2005). However, Shannon Catalano, statistician and author of the report, and Gail E. Wyatt, professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute, also suggest that the decrease may only be a superficial reduction in the reporting of the crime and not an actual decrease in the crime itself, the Baltimore Sun reports.

LEARN MORE about the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing, which works to improve police response to violence against women, reduce police brutality and excessive force, and strengthen community policing

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Bureau of Justice Statistics 12/28/06; Washington Post 12/28/06, 12/29/06; Baltimore Sun 12/29/06

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