Findings from the National Violence
against Women Survey, July 2000
Domestic Violence Pervasive
According to the National Violence against Women (NVAW) survey, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, intimate partner violence is pervasive in U.S. society. Nearly 25% of surveyed women and 7.5% of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime. Stalking by intimates is more prevalent than previously thought, exceeding previous nonscientific “guesstimates” of stalking in the general population. Almost 5% of surveyed women and 0.6% of surveyed men reported being stalked by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime.
Women Bear the Brunt of the Violence
Women experience more intimate partner violence than do men. The NVAW survey found that women are significantly more likely than men to report being victims of rape, physical assault, or stalking than men. Women also experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners. The survey found that women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner averaged 6.9 physical assaults by the same partner, whereas men averaged 4.4 assaults.
Race and Socioeconomic Factors
Rates of intimate partner violence vary significantly among women of diverse racial backgrounds. The survey found that Asian/Pacific Islander women and men tend to report lower rates of intimate partner violence than do women and men from other minority backgrounds, and African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native women and men report higher rates. However, differences among minority groups diminish when other sociodemographic and relationship variables are controlled.
Emotional Abuse Frequently Accompanies Physical Abuse
Violence perpetrated against women by intimates is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior. The survey found that women whose partners were jealous, controlling, or verbally abusive were significantly more likely to report being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by their partners, even when other sociodemographic and relationship characteristics were controlled. Indeed, having a verbally abusive partner was the variable most likely to predict that a woman would be victimized by an intimate partner. These findings support the theory that violence perpetrated against women by intimates is often part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control.
Women living with female partners experience less partner violence than women living with male partners. Slightly more than 11% of the women who had lived with a woman as part of a couple reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a female cohabitant, but 21.7% of the women who had married or lived with a man as part of a couple reported such violence by a husband or male cohabitant. These findings suggest that lesbian couples experience less intimate partner violence than do heterosexual couples; however, more research is needed to support or refute this conclusion.
Gay Male Couples
Men living with male partners experience more partner violence than do men who live with female partners. Approximately 23% of the men who had lived with a man as a couple reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a male cohabitant, while 7.4% of the men who had married or lived with a woman as a couple reported such violence by a wife or female cohabitant. These findings provide further evidence that intimate partner violence is perpetrated primarily by men, whether against male or female intimates.
Domestic Violence Underreported to Police
Most intimate partner victimizations are not reported to the police. Only approximately one-fifth of all rapes, one-quarter of all physical assaults, and one-half of all stalkings perpetrated against female respondents by intimates were reported to the police. Even fewer rapes, physical assaults, and stalkings perpetrated against male respondents by intimates were reported. The majority of victims who did not report their victimization to the police thought the police would not or could not do anything on their behalf.