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Epidemiology of domestic violence

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Title: Epidemiology of domestic violence  
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Subject: Domestic violence, Domestic violence and pregnancy, Epidemiology of asthma, Economic abuse, Epidemiology of child psychiatric disorders
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Epidemiology of domestic violence

Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures,[1] and affects people across society, irrespective of economic status.[2]

In the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1995 women reported a six times greater rate of intimate partner violence than men.[3][4] However, studies have found that men are much less likely to report victimization in these situations.[5]

Some studies[4] have found that "women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners". However, studies have shown that women are more likely to be injured. Archer's meta-analysis[6] found that women suffer 65% of domestic violence injuries. A Canadian study showed that 7% of women and 6% of men were abused by their current or former partners, but female victims of spousal violence were more than twice as likely to be injured as male victims, three times more likely to fear for their life, twice as likely to be stalked, and twice as likely to experience more than ten incidents of violence.[7]

Some studies show that lesbian relationships have similar levels of violence as heterosexual relationships,[8] while other studies report that lesbian relationships exhibit substantially higher rates of physical aggression.[9]

By demographic

Against women

According to various national surveys, the percentage of women who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner varies substantially by country: Barbados (30%), Canada (29%), Egypt (34%), New Zealand (35%), Switzerland (21%), United States (33%).[10][11] Some surveys in specific places report figures as high as 50–70% of women who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner.[10] Others, including surveys in the Philippines and Paraguay, report figures as low as 10%.[10]

In India, around 70% of women are victims of domestic violence.[12] A "bride burning" occurs every two hours in India because the woman had a small dowry or to allow her husband to remarry.[13]

Statistics published in 2004, show that the rate of domestic violence victimisation for Indigenous women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-Indigenous women.[14]

South Africa is said to have the highest statistics of gender-based violence in the world, including rape and domestic violence (Foster 1999; The Integrated Regional Network [IRIN], Johannesburg, South Africa, 25 May 2002).[15] 80% of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified, particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her husband.[16] Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Nigeria's Lagos State say they are victims to domestic violence.[17]

In Turkey 42% of women over 15 have suffered physical or sexual violence[18]

Between 1993 and 2001, U.S. women reported intimate partner violence almost seven times more frequently than men (a ratio of 20:3).[19] Statistics for the year 1994 showed that more than five times as many females reported being victimized by an intimate than did males.[20]

There is currently limited research on the abuse of lesbian women by their partners. However, in a survey by the Canadian Government, some 19% of lesbian women reported being victimized by their partners.[21]


Domestic violence during pregnancy can be missed by medical professionals because it often presents in non-specific ways. A number of countries have been statistically analyzed to calculate the prevalence of this phenomenon:

  • UK prevalence: 3.4%[22]
  • USA prevalence: 3.2-33.7%[23][24]
  • Ireland prevalence: 12.5%[25]
  • Rates are higher in teenagers[26]
  • Severity and frequency increase postpartum (10% antenatally vs. 19% postnatally);[27] 21% at 3 months post partum[28]

There are a number of presentations that can be related to domestic violence during pregnancy: delay in seeking care for injuries; late booking, non-attenders at appointments, self-discharge; frequent attendance, vague problems; aggressive or over-solicitous partner; burns, pain, tenderness, injuries; vaginal tears, bleeding, STDs; and miscarriage.

Domestic violence against a pregnant woman can also affect the fetus and can have lingering effects on the child after birth. Physical abuse is associated with neonatal death (1.5% versus 0.2%), and verbal abuse is associated with low birth weight (7.6% versus 5.1%).[29]

Against men

Women's violence towards men is a serious social problem.[30] While much attention has been focused on domestic violence against women, researchers argue that domestic violence against men is a substantial social problem worthy of attention.[4] However, the issue of victimization of men by women has been contentious, due in part to studies which report drastically different statistics regarding domestic violence.

Some studies—typically crime studies—show that men are substantially more likely than women to use violence.[31] According to a July 2000 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, data from the Bureau of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey consistently show that women are at significantly greater risk of intimate partner violence than are men. Other studies—typically family and domestic violence studies—show that men are more likely to inflict injuries, but also that when all acts of physical aggression or violence are considered in aggregate, women are equally violent as men,[32] or more violent than men.[33][34][35][36]

In May, 2007, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control reported on rates of self-reported violence among intimate partners using data from a 2001 study. In the study, almost one-quarter of participants reported some violence in their relationships. Half of these involved one-sided ("non-reciprocal") attacks and half involved both assaults and counter assaults ("reciprocal violence"). Women reported committing one-sided attacks more than twice as often as men (70% versus 29%). In all cases of intimate partner violence, women were more likely to be injured than men, but 25% of men in relationships with two-sided violence reported injury compared to 20% of women reporting injury in relationships with one-sided violence. Women were more likely to be injured in non-reciprocal violence. [37]

Straus argues that these discrepancies between the two data sets are due to several factors. For example, Straus notes that crime studies use different methodologies than family conflict studies.[38] Additionally, Straus notes that most studies show that while men inflict the greater portion of injuries, women are at least as likely as men to shove, punch, slap or otherwise physically assault their partner, and that such relatively minor assaults often escalate to more serious assaults. Men generally do not report such assaults if asked general questions about violence or abuse; older studies frequently failed to ask about specific actions, thus falling afoul of quite different cultural gender norms for what constitutes abuse. Minor assaults perpetrated by women are also a major problem, even when they do not result in injury, because they put women in danger of much more severe retaliation by men.

The 2000 CDC report, based on phone interviews with 8000 men and 8000 women, reported that 7.5% of men claim to have been raped or assaulted by an intimate at some time in their life (compared to 25% of women), and 0.9 percent of men claim to have been raped or assaulted in the previous 12 months (compared to 1.5% of women).[31]

A 2007-2008 online non-random, self-report survey of the experiences and health of men who sustained partner violence in the past year. The study showed that male victims of IPV are very hesitant to report the violence or seek help. Reasons given for non-reporting were they (1) may be ashamed to come forward; (2) may not be believed; and (3) may be accused of being a batterer when they do come forward. The 229 U.S. heterosexual men, between 18 and 59, had been physically assaulted by their female partner within previous year and did seek help. The researchers say their findings emphasize the need for prevention on all levels:

  • Primary prevention: Educate public and providers that both sexes can be IPV victims
  • Secondary prevention: First responders (police, hotlines, medical professionals) should take concerns seriously from all individuals (including males) seeking help
  • Tertiary prevention: Rehabilitative services available to all individuals[39]

Against children

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, "female parents acting alone" were most common perpetrators of child abuse.[40]

When it comes to domestic violence towards children involving physical abuse, research in the UK by the NSPCC indicated that "most violence occurred at home" (78 per cent). 40—60% of men and women who abuse other adults also abuse their children.[41] Girls whose fathers batter their mothers are 6.5 times more likely to be sexually abused by their fathers than are girls from non-violent homes.[42] In China in 1989, 39,000 baby girls died during their first year of life because they didn't receive the same medical care that would be given to a male child.[13]

In Asia alone, about one million children working in the sex trade are held in slavery-like conditions.[13]

Between teenagers

Teen dating violence is a pattern of controlling behavior by one teenager over another teenager who are in a dating relationship. While there are many similarities to "traditional" domestic violence there are also some differences. Teens are much more likely than adults to become isolated from their peers as the result of controlling behavior by their boyfriend/girlfriend. Also, for many teens the abusive relationship may be their first dating experience and have never had a "normal" dating experience with which to compare it. While teenagers are trying to establish their sexual identities, they are also confronting violence in their relationships and exposure to technology. Studies document that teenagers are experiencing significant amounts of dating or domestic violence. Depending on the population studied and the way dating violence is defined, between 9 and 35% of teens have experienced domestic violence in a dating relationship. When a broader definition of abuse that encompasses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse is used, one in three teen girls is subjected to dating abuse." Additionally, a significant number of teens are victims of stalking by intimate partners. Although involvement with romantic relationships is a critical aspect of adolescence, these relationships also present serious risks for teenagers. Unfortunately, adolescents in dating relationships are at greater risk of intimate partner violence than any other age group. Approximately one third of adolescent girls are victims of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Estimates of sexual victimization range from 14% to 43% of girls and 0.3% to 36% for boys. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2009, nearly 10% of students nationwide had been intentionally hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Twenty-six percent of girls in a relationship reported being threatened with violence or experiencing verbal abuse; 13% reported being physically hurt or hit.[43]


Measures of the incidence of violence in intimate relationships can differ markedly in their findings depending on the measures used. Care is needed when using domestic violence statistics to ensure that both gender bias and under-reporting issues do not affect the inferences that are drawn from the statistics.

Some researchers, such as Michael P. Johnson, suggest that where and how domestic violence is measured also affects findings, and caution is needed to ensure statistics drawn from one class of situations are not applied to another class of situations in a way that might have fatal consequences.[44] Other researchers, such as David Murray Fergusson, counter that domestic violence prevention services, and statistics that they produce, target the extreme end of domestic violence and preventing child abuse rather than domestic violence between couples.[45]

Gender bias

Survey approaches to gathering domestic violence statistics tend to show comparable levels of violence by both men and women against partners. Approaches using data from reports of domestic violence offenses, for example, agency or hospital samples, tend to show women experiencing violence from male partners as the majority of cases (80–90%).[44]

Research based on the survey-based Conflict Tactics Scale, a measure of intrafamily conflict and violence focusing on the adults in the family developed by Murray Straus (1979), includes national surveys on the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States and other countries. These include the two U.S. National Family Violence Surveys (1975 and 1985)[46] and the National Violence Against Women Survey (2000) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). This research has tended to show that men and women are equally violent. The National Violence Against Women Survey (2000) found that women experience more intimate partner violence than do men, women experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners than do men, and that violence perpetrated against women by intimates is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

Research based on reported domestic violence or on police records show men to be the perpetrators, and women the victims, of most reported domestic violence. However, the intervention of police may introduce a degree of gender bias into reporting. When faced with an uncertain domestic violence situation, removing one party will often defuse an altercation. Police officers may find it easier to take action against a man. This may be due to gender expectations, reinforced by previous incidents. . Additionally, removing the woman may entail involving other social services to care for any existing children for a time, something that may not be in the children's best interests, or may cause a significant delay. The fact that non-domestic offending is often committed by males may also influence an officer's decision.

Police responding to a complaint may act more favorably to the complainant than other parties (though some researchers report instances where men were attacked, called the police instead of fighting back, yet were arrested themselves). Some researchers have found that women are more likely to report domestic violence to police than men are. In Ireland, 29% of female victims and 5% of male victims of domestic abuse reported the abuse to the police.[4] In the United States, male victims are less likely than female victims to report rape, physical assault, or stalking.[47]

Injury and hospital admission statistics suggest that males are more frequently the perpetrators of injury causing violence. However, both the difference in likelihood of reporting noted above, and the relative strength difference between males and females, could be factors in this reporting bias, as males may be more likely to injure females in otherwise equivalent circumstances.


The problem of under-reporting to police is believed to be substantial. However, estimates about how much domestic violence is not reported vary widely. It must also be remembered that a significant amount of non-domestic violence crime is also not reported to police. Depending on what statistics are chosen, anywhere between a tenth of incidents and nothing significantly less than what would be expected for any other incident are reported to police.

Many crime victimization surveys, from many countries, do show that there is a correlation between the under-reporting of crime and the degree of intimacy between the victim and the offender. The degree of seriousness of offending also affects reporting, with less serious offending less likely to be reported to police. Also the nature of the offending affects reporting, with sexual offenses far less likely to be reported, even when they are serious.

International levels


The government, including the health, justice and social service sectors, as a step towards fulfilling the state’s obligation to eliminate violence against women under international human rights laws.


A 1992 Council of Europe study on domestic violence against women found that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6 and 10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.

In the European Union, DV is a serious problem in the Baltic States. These three countries - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - have also lagged behind most post-communist countries in their response to DV.[48] The problem in these countries is very severe, and in 2013 a DV victim won a European Court of Human Rights case against Lithuania.[49][50]

United Kingdom

The British Crime Survey for 2006-2007 reported that 0.5% of people (0.6% of women and 0.3% of men) reported being victims of domestic violence during that year and 44.3% of domestic violence was reported to the police. According to the survey, and 312,000 women and 93,000 men were victims of domestic violence.[51]

The Northern Ireland Crime Survey for 2005 reported that 13% of people (16% of women and 10% of men) reported being victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives.[52]

The National Study of Domestic Abuse for 2005 reported that 213,000 women and 88,000 men reported being victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. According to the study, one in seven women and one in sixteen men were victims of severe physical abuse, severe emotional abuse, or sexual abuse.[4]

In the United Kingdom, the police estimate that around 35% of domestic violence against women is actually reported. A 2002 Women's Aid study found that 74% of separated women suffered from post-separation violence.

North America


In Canada, the Assembly of First Nations evaluation of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program conducted by CIET offers an inclusive and relatively unbiased national estimate. It documented domestic violence in a random sample of 85 First Nations across Canada: 22% (523/2359) of mothers reported suffering abuse in the year prior to being interviewed; of these, 59% reported physical abuse.[53]

Results of studies which estimate the prevalence of domestic violence vary significantly, depending on specific wording of survey questions, how the survey is conducted, the definition of abuse or domestic violence used, the willingness or unwillingness of victims to admit that they have been abused and other factors. For instance, Straus (2005) conducted a study which estimated that the rate of minor assaults by women in the United States was 78 per 1,000 couples, compared with a rate for men of 72 per 1,000 and the severe assault rate was 46 per 1,000 couples for assaults by women and 50 per 1,000 for assaults by men. Neither difference is statistically significant. He claimed that since these rates were based exclusively on information provided by women respondents, the near-equality in assault rates could not be attributed to a gender bias in reporting.[54]

One analysis found that "women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners".[4] However, studies have shown that women are more likely to be injured. Archer's meta-analysis[55] found that women in the United States suffer 65% of domestic violence injuries. A Canadian study showed that 7% of women and 6% of men were abused by their current or former partners, but female victims of spousal violence were more than twice as likely to be injured as male victims, three times more likely to fear for their life, twice as likely to be stalked, and twice as likely to experience more than ten incidents of violence.[56] However, Straus notes that Canadian studies on domestic violence have simply excluded questions that ask men about being victimized by their wives.[54]

According to a 2004 survey in Canada, the percentages of males being physically or sexually victimized by their partners was 6% versus 7% for women. However, females reported higher levels of repeated violence and were more likely than men to experience serious injuries; 23% of females versus 15% of males were faced with the most serious forms of violence including being beaten, choked, or threatened with or having a gun or knife used against them. Also, 21% of women versus 11% of men were likely to report experiencing more than 10 violent incidents. Women who often experience higher levels of physical or sexual violence from their current partner, were 44%, compared with 18% of men to suffer from an injury. Cases in which women are faced with extremely abusive partners, results in the females having to fear for their lives due to the violence they had faced. In addition, statistics show that 34% of women feared for their lives, and 10% of men feared for theirs.[57]

Some studies show that lesbian relationships have similar levels of violence as heterosexual relationships.[58]

United States

Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men report being physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.[59] In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44.[60]

Victims of DV are offered legal remedies, which include the criminal law, as well as obtaining a protection order. The remedies offered can be both of a civil nature (civil orders of protection and other protective services) and of a criminal nature (charging the perpetrator with a criminal offense). People perpetrating DV are subject to criminal prosecution, most often under assault and battery laws.[61]


A Bulgarian poster urging people to open their eyes about domestic violence

In Russia, according to a BBC article, which supposedly cites the Russian interior ministry as source, there are 600,000 women victims of domestic abuse every year and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners each year. This however is unlikely, since the total count of violent deaths from all causes in 2012 were 13,120, making the claim highly suspect. Domestic violence is not a specific criminal offense, but it can be charged under various crimes of the criminal code (e.g. assault), but in practice cases of domestic violence turn into criminal cases only when they involve severe injuries, or the victim has died.[62] For more details see Domestic violence in Russia.

In Turkey 42% of women over 15 have suffered physical or sexual violence.[63]

Fighting the prevalence of domestic violence in Kashmir has brought Hindu and Muslim activists together.[64] Additionally, aspects of Islamic law have been criticized for promoting domestic violence[65]

One study found that half of Palestinian women have been the victims of domestic violence.[66]

A study on Bedouin women in Israel found that most have experienced DV, most accepted it as a decree from God, and most believed they were to blame themselves for the violence. The study also showed that the majority of women were not aware of existing laws and policies which protect them: 60% said they did not know what a restraining order was.[67]

In Iraq husbands have a legal right to "punish" their wives. The criminal code states at Paragraph 41 that there is no crime if an act is committed while exercising a legal right; examples of legal rights include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom".[68]

In [71]

The Human Rights Watch found that up to 90% of women in Pakistan were subject to some form of maltreatment within their own homes.[72] Honor killings in Pakistan are a very serious problem, especially in northern Pakistan.[73][74] In Pakistan, honour killings are known locally as karo-kari. Karo-kari is a compound word literally meaning "black male" (Karo) and "black female (Kari).

Domestic violence in India is widespread, and is often related to the custom of dowry.[75] Although not as common as in other parts of Asia, honor killings do occur in some regions of India, particularly in northern regions of the country. Honor killings have been reported in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, as a result of people marrying without their family's acceptance, and sometimes for marrying outside their caste or religion.[76][77]


True Manhood - Anti-Domestic Violence Sign outside Entebbe, Uganda. "Beating my wife destroyed my marriage: Don't do what I did. A true man does not beat his partner."

A UN report compiled from a number of different studies conducted in at least 71 countries found domestic violence against women to be most prevalent in Ethiopia.[78]

Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Nigeria's Lagos State say they are victims to domestic violence.[79]

80% of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified, particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her husband.[16]



Statistics published in 2004, show that the rate of domestic violence victimisation for Indigenous women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-Indigenous women.[80]

Findings from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that among the female victims of physical assault, 31 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Among male victims, 4.4 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Thirty per cent of people who had experienced violence by a current partner since the age of 15 were male, and seventy per cent were female.[81]


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