October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Are you aware?
Nearly one-third of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey. (The Commonwealth Fund, ‘Health Concerns Across a Women’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health,’ May 1999)
An estimated 4.5 million physical assaults are committed against U.S. women by intimate partners annually. (U.S. Department of Justice, ‘Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,’ July 2000)
Approximately half (51.2 percent) of the women raped by an intimate and two-thirds (65.5 percent) of the women physically assaulted by an intimate said they were victimized multiple times by the same partner. (U.S. Department of Justice, ‘Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,’ July 2000)
Who are the victims?
Eight-five percent of domestic violence victims are women. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Factbook: Violence By Intimates, 1998, NCJ-167237)
Violence against women is present in every country, cutting across boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity, and age. (United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls,’ Innocenti Digest, No. 6, May 2000)
Women of all socio-economic groups experience abuse. However, women in poverty face particular hardships and challenges when they try to leave abusive relationships because they lack the resources they need to support themselves and their children. (Family Violence Prevention Fund, ‘Speaking Up,’ Vol. 8, Issue 6, 1998)
In almost nine out of ten incidents of domestic elder abuse and neglect, the perpetrator is a family member. (1998 National Elder Abuse Incidence Study)
Domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples occurs in approximately 25-30 percent of relationships—the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships. However, women are nearly three times more likely to report being victimized by a male partner than by a female partner and men are nearly twice as likely to report being victimized by a male partner than by a female partner. These findings suggest that men primarily perpetrate violence, whether against male or female partners. (Barnes, ‘It’s Just a Quarrel’, American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 25) (US Department of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, July 2000)
Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. (Silverman, Raj, Lorelei, Mucci, and Hathaway, ‘Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality,’ Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 286, No. 5, 2001)
Effects on Children
Slightly more than half of female victims of intimate partner violence live in households with children under age 12. (U.S. Department of Justice, ‘Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends,’ March 1998)
Each year, thousands of American children witness intimate partner violence within their families. Witnessing violence is a risk factor for long-term physical and mental health problems, including alcohol and substance abuse, being a victim of abuse, and perpetrating intimate partner violence. (Felitti, et al. 1998)
For incidents known to police, 3 percent of spouse and intimate partner assaults also include a child abuse victim, while 13 percent of child abuse victimizations include a spouse or other intimate partner assault. (Finkelhor and Ormrod, ‘Child Abuse Reported to the Police,’ The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2001)
Impact of Domestic Violence
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country everyday. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, ‘Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim 1993-99,’ October 2001)
70 percent of all known domestic violence related deaths in Arizona involve the use of a firearm. (Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Related Homicides 2001)
According to newspaper reports, 106 people died in Arizona in 2000 as a result of a domestic violence related homicide. In addition, 22 perpetrators committed suicide. In 2001, 92 people died in Arizona as a result of a domestic violence related homicide and 17 perpetrators committed suicide. (Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Related Homicides, 2000 and 2001)
The estimated yearly direct medical cost of caring for battered women is about $1.8 billion. (Wisner, Gilmer, Saltzman, and Zink, ‘Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Do Victims Cost Health Plans More?,’ The Journal of Family Practice, 48, No. 6, 1999)
The United States Department of Justice has reported that a current or former spouse or partner injured 37 percent of all women who sought medical care in hospital emergency rooms for violence-related injuries. (United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls,’ Innocenti Digest, No. 6, May 2000)
A study conducted at a large health plan in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota in 1994, found that an annual difference of $1,775 more was spent on abused women who utilized hospital services than on a random sample of general enrollees. (Wisner, Gilmer, Saltzman, and Zink, ‘Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Do Victims Cost Health Plans More?,’ The Journal of Family Practice, 48, No. 6, 1999)
What can be done?
Victim safety and batterer accountability must be of primary importance.
Victims must have adequately funded domestic violence services available to them including shelter, affordable housing, legal advocacy, and transportation.
Victims must be able to rely on the criminal justice system to protect them and hold their batterers accountable when this crime is committed.