Violence against women is a critical public health problem that has devastating physical and emotional consequences for women, children and families. Women are frequent targets of both physical and sexual assault by partners and acquaintances, as well as strangers. Secretary Donna E. Shalala, DHHS has called domestic abuse against women: “An unacknowledged epidemic in America”. Secretary Donna Shalala (DHHS Fact Sheet March 1994).
Domestic violence during the last 20 years has been acknowledged as being a rapidly growing health concern in America’s communities, and as a result, communities around the country are working to develop strategies to stop the violence and provide more protective mechanisms for women and children who are battered (Hart, 1995).
One report estimates that more than 2.5 million females experience some form of violence each year. Further, almost 2 out of 3 females in this population have been attacked by a family member or a person with which they are acquainted.
For too long, domestic violence has been framed and understood exclusively as a women’s issue. But domestic violence must no longer be viewed as a problem only affecting women — increasingly, spouse abuse is a problem devastating every sector of society, overwhelming our courts and hospitals, spilling over into our streets, and filling our morgues. We must all be a part of the solution if we are to address the deadly toll this epidemic is taking, and men have a critical role to play in doing so.
Lesbian and gay relationships have finally been granted legal recognition by the California legislature. That recognition, however, is not in the form of domestic partners legislation. It is, instead contained in new amendment of the Penal Code. A series of changes, that most recent of which went into effect in January 1995, have revised statutes on domestic violence by removing opposite-sex language and expanding the definition of cohabitant to include “unrelated adult persons” having “sexual relations.” The changes will make it easier for gay and lesbian victims of domestic violence to seek assistance from the courts and police.
This fact sheet covers a wide array of information gathered from a number of national sources, including the Office of Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.
All women, children and men have the right to live their lives in a healthy and safe environment and to conduct their lives without emotional, physical or sexual abuse or the fear of abuse. The mission of this agency is to work toward eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault and to reduce their effects in our community through crisis intervention, services, education and community involvement.
(Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition)
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is abuse committed by a spouse, a former spouse, a fiancee, a boyfriend or girlfriend, and a cohabitant upon another individual. It is estimated that a domestic violence act occurs every 15 seconds somewhere in the United States. That figure translates to over 2.5 million victims per year. This abuse affects the lives of the victim and the children who live within the boundaries of these abusive relationships.
In 1991, 5,745 women in the United States died as a result of homicide.
Six in every 10 women who are victims of homicide were murdered by someone they knew. About half of these women were murdered by a spouse or someone with whom they had been intimate.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44.
Every 21 days, a woman is killed by domestic violence.
Children are involved in 60 percent of domestic violence cases.
More than three million children witness acts of domestic violence each year.
Up to 50 percent of all homeless women and children in this country are fleeing domestic violence.
One in ten calls made to alert police of domestic violence is placed by a child in the home.
More than 53 percent of male abusers beat their children.
One of every three abused children becomes an adult abuser or victim.
Victims and abusers are found in every social and economic class, race, religious group, and sexual orientation.
Factors such as poverty, single-parent households headed by women, and parents with less than a high school education were found to be more common among families suffering abuse.
The Women’s Health Data Book Report — Violence Against Women indicated that:
More than 2.5 million females experience some form of violence each year. Almost two of every three of these females are attacked by a relative or person known to them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a national survey that 34 percent of adults in the United States had witnessed a man beating his wife or girlfriend, and that 14 percent of women report that they have experienced violence from a husband or boyfriend.
More than 1 million women seek medical assistance each year for injuries caused by battering.
Two major sources were used to estimate the degree of violence against women in the United States.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (Horton, 1995).
Family and Intimate Violence
Definition: Family and Intimate Violence can be defined as encompassing threatened or actual use of physical or sexual force among family members or intimate others that either results in or has the potential to result in injury or death.
Violence Against Women encompasses a subset of family and intimate violence including threatened or actual use of physical or sexual abuse against a woman by her family members or other intimates.
Commonly referenced behaviors included within the broad category of violence against women include:
This cursory overview will focus on Domestic Violence and Violence and the recent findings related to their consequences.
More than twice as many women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends than are murdered by strangers. (Arthur Kellerman. “Men, Women and Murder.” The Journal of Trauma. July 17, 1992, pp.1-5). advertisement
In 1992, the American Medical Association reported that as many as 1 in 3 women will be assaulted by a domestic partner in her lifetime — 4 million in any given year. (“When Violence Hits Home.” Time. June 4, 1994).
Among all female murder victims in 1992, 29% were slain by boyfriends or husbands; four percent of male victims were slain by their wives or girlfriends. (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 1993).
The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are, on average, sentenced to 15 years. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1989)
Women who are victims of chronic abuse eventually become violent toward the abuser. Women who kill their spouses have been the victims of spiraling levels of abuse of increasing frequency and severity. Often, police visits to the home on charges of family violence numbered at least five times.
Police are more likely to respond within 5 minutes if an offender is a stranger than if an offender is known to a female victim. (Ronet Bachman, Ph.D. “Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report.” U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice and Statistics. January 1994, p. 9.)
Firearms are frequent weapons leading to mortality rates of women killed by their spouses, boyfriends or others.
Sixty-three percent of the young men between the ages of 11 and 20 who are serving time for homicide have killed their mother’s abuser. (March of Dimes, 1992).
One longitudinal study focused on spousal physical aggression at 18 and 30 months after marriage. The findings indicated that the pre-relationship predictor variables were history of violence in the family of origin, aggression against others during childhood and adolescence, and personality characteristics.
The relationship predictor variables were marital discord and spouse-specific psychological aggression. The findings suggested that predictive models are different for husbands and wives. For both genders, there were direct paths to marital violence that were not mediated by characteristics of the relationship, as well as paths that originated in or flowed through indicators of the marital relationship. The implications for marital therapy were discussed.
Battering is the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, isolation, etc. to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but it remains as a hidden (and constant) terrorizing factor. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1990).
Battering is often lethal. Each year, 2,000-4,000 women in the U.S. are murdered by abusive partners/ex-partners.
In the United States, a woman is beaten every 7.4 seconds. Approximately 3-4 million women are beaten by male partners annually.
Battered women are more likely to suffer miscarriages and to give birth to babies with low birth weights. (Surgeon General, United States, 1992).
Over two-thirds of violent victimizations against women were committed by someone known to them: 31% of female victims reported that the offender was a stranger.
Approximately 28% were intimates such as husbands or boyfriends, 35% were acquaintances, and the remaining 5% were other relatives. (In contrast, victimizations by intimates and other relatives accounted for only 5% of all violent victimizations against men.
Men are significantly more likely to have been victimized by acquaintances (50%) or strangers (44%) than by intimates or other relatives.) (Ronet Bachman, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report,” January 1994, p. 1).
Annually, compared to males, females experienced over 10 times as many incidents of violence by intimate. On average each year, women experience 572,032 violent victimizations at the hands of an intimate, compared to 48,983 incidents committed against men. (Ronet Bachman, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report,” January 1994, p. 6).
There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters (Schneider, 1990).
According to one survey, almost 133,000 women were the victims of rape or attempted rape each year between 1987 and 1991 (Horton, 1993).
Women were raped by someone they knew which constituted 55 percent of the reported rapes and 45 percent by strangers.
Only 53 percent of all attempted or completed rapes were reported to police.
15 percent reported the rape in order to prevent future occurrences, and 56 percent reported them in order for the perpetrator to be punished.
28 percent did not report the rape because they considered it to be a personal or private matter.
17 percent feared reprisals from the perpetrator.
15 percent felt that the police would be ineffective or insensitive.
Reporting or not reporting the rape event was found to be dependent on the relationship between the victim and the offender.
In the past ten years, reports of men being raped have been on the increase.
Men are often attacked by gangs, assaulted with weapons, and taken by surprise. Drugs and alcohol are sometimes used to incapacitate victims.
Most male survivors were raped as children or as adults who were never incarcerated.
The Commonwealth Fund survey reported that 1.9 million women reported having been raped, and 7.6 million reported having been mugged, robbed, or assaulted in the previous 5 years.
Young, unmarried, separated or divorced women and nonwhite women are the most frequent victims of rape and attempted rape.
African American women experience higher rates of rape than white or Hispanic women.
Regardless of whether a woman was raped by a stranger or someone known to her, 60 percent of them received medical care and 30 percent were injured seriously enough to be hospitalized (Bachman, (1994).
Dating Violence or Date Rape
Date rape prevention workshop included a mixed gender group to discuss the problem among 1,400 undergraduate students in more than 80 presentations. Students were unanimously positive about the need to discuss the issues of date rape (Holcomb, Sondag, & Holcomb, 1993).
One study (Frintner, & Robinson, 1993) examined the prevalence of sexual victimization among undergraduate women at a large Midwestern university and found that alcohol use is strongly associated with sexual violence, and that fraternity members and members of sports teams are over represented among the accused.
Acquaintance Rape: Like Date Rape is also underreported and often unrecognized.
The United States Public Health Service treats violence as a health issue and consequently, uses injuries, both fatal and non-fatal, physical and psychological, to quantity the impact of violence.
Children who witness violence at home display emotional and behavioral disturbances as diverse as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame and aggression against peers, family members and property. (Peled, Inat, Jaffe, Peter G & Edleson, Jeffery L. (Eds) Ending the Cycle of Violence: Community Responses to Children of Battered Women. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1995.)
Over 3 million children are at risk to exposure to parental violence each year. (Carlson, B.E., “Children’s Observations of Interparental Violence” in Edwards, A.R. (Ed). Battered Women and Their Families. New York: Springer, pp. 147-167. 1984.
From 1983 to 1991, the number of domestic violence reports received increased by almost 117% (NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, 1983 and 1991).
53% of battered women still involved with the perpetrator experienced self-blame for causing the violence (Barnett, Martinez, Keyson. “The relationship between Violence, Social Support, and Self-blame in Battered women.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. (1996): 221-33).
Women are more often victims of domestic violence than of burglary, muggings, or other physical crimes combined (The Commonwealth Fund, 1993).
The most rapid growth in domestic relations case loads is occurring in domestic violence filings. Between 1991-1993, of 24 states with three year filing figures, 18 reported an increase of 20 percent or more. (Examining the Work of State Courts, 1993: A National Perspective from the Court Statistics Project. National Center for the State Courts, 1995).
Pregnancy and Violence
Of every 1,000 pregnant women, 154 are assaulted by their partner during the first four months of pregnancy.
During the 5th through the 9th month, 170 out of 1,000 pregnant women are assaulted.
Physical abuse during pregnancy may result in a number of problems:
— fetal fractures
— rupture of the uterus, liver or spleen or
Detection of elderly abuse is complicated by the effects of normal aging.
Among the elderly, abuse make take four forms:
— Physical abuse
— Physical neglect
— Emotional abuse
— Financial abuse
Incidence of elder abuse was found to be 32 of 1,000 in persons over age 65.
Elderly men are as likely to be abused as elderly women.
Elderly women sustain more severe physical and psychological injury.
The elderly female’s abuser may be:
— her spouse (58 percent)
— her son (16 percent) or
— her daughter (8 percent).
While there is no reliable national data on elder abuse, however, exploratory studies suggest that family members and staff of long-term care institutions often are publicized through mass media (Costa, 1993; Pillemer & Finkelhor 1988,
Special cases have warranted Federal, State and local attention in the development of intervention programs to reduce elder abuse and violence to older Americans (Horton, 1995).
Identified Root Causes of Violence
Root Causes of Domestic Violence
Power and control
Growing up in a cycle of violence and abuse
Distorted concept of manhood
Root Causes of Violence
Poverty and unemployment
Underemployment and economic disequilibrium
Lack of housing and displacement
Circumstances of racism and injustice
Alcohol and substance abuse
Hopelessness and despair
While current data on the incidence and prevalence of domestic violence are not comprehensive in scope, they provide compelling evidence that our nation is experiencing the growth of a major public health problem. As a result of significant preliminary studies, domestic violence is growing at a rapid rate among all U.S.A. classes, cultures, age cohorts, economic and religious groups.
As mentioned earlier, violence against women encompasses a subset of family and intimate violence including threatened or actual use of physical, psychological or sexual abuse against a woman by her family members or other intimates. Commonly referenced behaviors included within the broad category of violence against women include: homicide, domestic violence, partner abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, spousal abuse, woman battering, elder abuse, courtship violence, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, and stranger rape.
The United States Public Health Service treats violence as a health issue and consequently, uses injuries, both fatal and nonfatal, physical and psychological, to quantify the impact of violence. Populations requiring additional study include: Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker women, Homeless women, African American women, Asian/Pacific Islander women, American Indian and Alaska Native women, and Hispanic women.
The nation is launching comprehensive efforts to reduce violence in general and domestic violence as a special initiative.
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