hidden half of domestic violence
to have eternal life
How Common Is Domestic Violence?
There is a national crusade to stop domestic
violence and abuse, a seemingly noble goal for the new millennium. Everyone
can support the abolition of domestic abuse as it involves gun control,
prohibition of drugs and alcohol, getting tough on crime, social engineering,
sexual prohibitions, creation of a vast bureaucracy for 'victim' assistance,
etc. In fact, just about any radical group, left or right, that you want to
name has a stake in enacting laws prohibiting violence against women. But what
is the real magnitude of the problem? Who are the victims? And who really is
responsible for violence within families and couples?
Estimates from the National Crime
As best we can tell domestic violence is quite a rare
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
has been collecting data on personal and household victimization of intimate
partners since 1973 in an ongoing survey of a nationally representative sample
of residential addresses.
While there are limitations and biases in the data
collected, the NCVS is a primary source of information on characteristics of
all types of criminal victimization, and on the number and types of crimes
not reported to law enforcement authorities as well as those that are.
The NCVS provides the largest national forum for victims
to describe the impact of crime and the characteristics of violent offenders.
Twice each year data are obtained from a sample of
roughly 49,000 households comprising about 100,000 persons on the frequency,
characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United
States. Thus, there is no more authoritative source than the NCVS as to what
crimes victims are encountering in their lives.
It is of fundamental importance to understand that the
NCVS data are not taken from police
social surveys, and do
not count couples who have bitter or loud arguments, a push-and shove
situation, S&M, or other aberrations couples may engage in. The NCVS is a
survey of citizens who believe a crime has been committed in their
household whether or not the crime was reported to police or any other
Current societal concern for domestic violence dates
from 1971 when
Erin Pizzey opened the
first refuge (shelter in the U.S.) for battered women in Chiswick, London,
England. Gaquin (1977-78) examined the first available NCVS data after 1971 on
the crime of domestic violence. For the years 1973-1975 he found an extremely
low rate of intimate partner violence of 2.2 incidents per 1,000 couples, or
Twenty years later, after domestic violence had been
brought to worldwide attention on a constant, if not hysterical basis, Dugan
(2003, p. 299) examined the NCVS data from January 1992 to June 1998 for
529,829 households in the United States. She reports: "From those, 2,873,
or 0.5%, reported at least one incident of domestic violence (unweighted)."
As we are constantly reminded of a "cycle of
violence" in domestic abuse cases there is also the question of how often
incidents of violence are repeated in a household. Dugan (2003, p. 299)
reports that for the same interval the NCVS data show a total of 3,508
incidents of criminal domestic violence in the 2,873 households reporting such
violence. So at most 20% reported repetitive criminal acts of domestic
violence, or <0.1% of the surveyed households.
There were an estimated 68.5 million family households
in 1994 (Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1997, Table 66), the
midpoint of Dugan's compilation. If we extrapolate from the NCVS survey data,
and assume that 0.5% of those households had at least one incident of criminal
domestic violence, there would have been about 340,000 cases in that year.
That after twenty years of intense bombardment by radical feminist propaganda
claiming all men are "batterers" and all women are
"victims" of domestic violence.
Given the intense propaganda about DV between 1971 and
1994, the figure of 0.22% given by Gaquin (1977-78) might be a better
benchmark. That would suggest about 150,000 cases of criminal domestic
violence in the entire United States in 1994.
The 340,000 DV crimes in 1994 derived from Dugan's
(2003, p. 299) review is not an insignificant number but it is certainly far
fewer cases of criminal domestic violence than we are led to believe by
radical feminists and
social studies, and
hardly sufficient to generate and support the current hysteria about battered
women. To put the crime of domestic violence, primarily assaults, in
perspective we need to compare it with similar crimes. In 1994 there were an
estimated 6,650,000 simple assaults and 2,478,000 aggravated assaults based on
the NCVS data.
Without making any judgements regarding the societal
interest in the topic of domestic violence one would be forced to conclude
that, according to victims surveyed by the NCVS, the crime of domestic
violence is a small mark on the tableau of American criminal justice. Yet by
2001 domestic violence cases comprised fully 21% of all misdemeanor court
(Table 15) in Colorado,
the most common crime on the court dockets.
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.
Dugan, L., Domestic violence legislation: Exploring its
impact on the likelihood of domestic violence, police involvement, and arrest,
Criminology & Public Policy, 2, 2, p. 283-309, 2003.
Gaquin, D. A., Spouse abuse: Data from the National
Crime Survey, Victimology, 2, p. 632-643, 1977-78.
Comments or criticisms of our policies or Web sites should be addressed to
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.
President, Equal Justice Foundation http://www.ejfi.org/
455 Bear Creek Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906-5820
Telephone: (719) 520-1089
Facsimile: (509) 472-5275
Domestic violence against men: http://www.dvmen.org
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