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Domestic Family Violence and Battering: Up or Down?

Uploaded 11/10/2010, approx. 5 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Contrary to common opinion, there has been a marked decline in domestic violence in the last decade. Moreover, rates of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse in various societies and cultures vary widely. It therefore safe to conclude that abusive conduct is not inevitable and it is only loosely connected to the prevalence of mental illness which is stable across ethnic, social, cultural, national and economic barriers.

There is no denying that the mental problems of some offenders do play a part in battering domestic violence, but this part is smaller than it is into it.

Cultural, social and even historical factors are the decisive determinants of spousal abuse and domestic violence.

Let us take the United States. The National Crime Victimization Survey, the NCVS, reported 691,710 non-fatal violent victimizations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends of the victims during for instance the year 2001. About 85% of intimate partner violence incidents involved women, usually as victims. The offender in one-fifth of the totality of crimes committed against women was an intimate partner, compared to only 3% of the crimes committed against men.

Still, this type of offenses against women declined by half, a staggering half between 1993 when there were 1.1 million non-fatal cases and 2001 when there were less than 600,000 non-fatal cases, from 9.8 to 5 per thousand women.

Intimate partner violence against men also declined from 163,000 cases in 1993 to about 103,000 cases in 2001 or from 1.6 to 0.9 per 1,000 males. Overall, the incidents of such crimes dropped from 5.8 to 3 per thousand.

Even so, the price in lost lives was and remains high.

In the year 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were murdered by an intimate partner in the United States, compared to 1,357 men and 1,600 women in the year 1976 and around 1,300 women in 1993.

This reveals an interesting and worrying trend. The number of overall intimate partner offenses against women declined sharply, but the number of fatal incidents did not.

Women get murdered as often as before. These remain more or less the same fatalities since 1993.

The cumulative figures are even more chilling. One in four to one in three women have been assaulted or raped at a given point in their lifetime.

This is based on the Commonwealth Fund survey of 1998.

The Mental Health Journal says the precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons. It often goes unreported, even on surveys. There is no nationwide organization that gathers information from local police departments about the number of unsubstantiated reports and calls, and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence.

Using a different methodology, counting separately multiple incidents perpetrated on the same woman, a report was published titled, Extend Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. The report was compiled by Patricia Chaden and Nancy Thurence for the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control. It was published in 1998, and it came up with a figure of 5.9 million physical assaults against 1.5 million targets in the United States annually.

According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project and Neil Webster in his report titled, Understanding Domestic Homicide, published by Northeastern University Press in 1999, according to these two sources, women in the process of separation or divorce were the targets of half of all intimate partner violence crimes.

In Florida, the figure is even higher, close to 60%.

The problem is that hospital staff are ill-equipped and ill-trained to deal with this pandemic. Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States were put down to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is closer to 50%.

Michael Rand, in a report titled, Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Department, departments published by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics in August 1997. This report pegs the RID number at 37%. So 37% of all women admitted into emergency rooms in hospitals across the country are actually victims of domestic violence, while only 4% are reported as such.

Spouses and ex-husbands were responsible for one in three women murdered in the United States. Two million spouses, mostly women, are threatened with a deadly weapon annually, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Only half of all American homes are affected by domestic violence at least once a year, but this is an extremely high figure.

And the violence spills over. One half of wife batteries also regularly assault and abuse their own children, according to a report titled, Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors, and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, 1999.

Similar results were revealed in a U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect reporttitled, A Nation's Shame: Fatal Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, which was published in 1995.

So most wife batteries, most offenders who commit domestic violence, attack and assault not only the spouse, but also the children.

The report says black females experience domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experience domestic violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males, and about 22 times the rate of men of other races.

This is based on a reporttitled, Intimate Partner Violence: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, was published in May 2000.

So, to summarize, the young, the poor, minorities, divorced, separated, single, especially women, were most likely to experience domestic violence and abuse.

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