The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) is a department within the Center for Disease Control (CDC) – and both of these agencies are under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Within all that bureaucracy there are very good statistics given by the NCIPC, and a wealth of worthwhile information about what some people call “domestic violence,” others call “violence between cohabitating couples,” and the government refers to as “intimate partner violence” (IPV).
In its section called “Intimate Partner Violence: Overview,” the NCIPC defines IPV in four different ways. First, there is “physical violence” (the “intentional” use of physical force which has the possibility of causing “death, disability, injury or harm”). Physical violence in a relationship can include such things as shoving, pushing, scratching, grabbing, slapping, shaking, burning, and all the way into serious violence such as using a weapon or using restraints and beating with a blunt instrument.
The second category of IPV is “sexual violence,” which is broken down into three categories; one, using force to engage in sex against someone’s will (and it doesn’t have to have been carried out to the fullest); two, having sex with a person who is not capable of understanding the nature of the act, because of mental retardation or use of drugs; and three, “abusive sexual contact.”
The third IPV is “threats of physical or sexual violence,” such as, picking up a baseball bat and saying, “…if you don’t stop going out with your friends I’ll smash your head in…”
The fourth IPV category is “psychological/emotional violence” – causing “trauma” to someone by humiliating them, controlling them, isolating them, denying them access to money or food or other basic needs. The NCIPC added a fifth, called “stalking,” which is another way of causing an individual great fear and discomfort.
Meanwhile, the NCIPC has another section on their Web site, a fact sheet that is called “Occurrence.” It has the statistics – probably as reliable as are available anywhere in the U.S. – on the incidents of intimate partner violence, and it is frightening to realize not only how much of this violence goes on, but how much goes unreported. In other words, there are clearly many men (and some women) who commit violent acts against their partners, and get away with it.
In fact, “most IPV incidents are not reported to the police,” the NCIPC Web site explains (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/ipvfacts.htm).Only 20% of IPV rapes or sexual assaults are reported; just 25% of physical assaults, and one-half of stalkings directed toward women are actually reported to the police. It is estimated that almost 5.3 millions IPV incidents happen each year “among women ages 18 and older,” and 3.2 million occur among men. The good news is that most of those assaults “are relatively minor” and are in the category of pushing and grabbing or slapping.
Each year, according to the NCIPC fact sheet, about 1.5 million women, and more than 800,000 men, are either “raped or physically assaulted by an intimate partner.” Those assaults result in “nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths nationwide every year.” The NCIPC fact sheet points out that the following are physical “consequences of IPV”: bruises, knife wounds, pelvic and back pain, headaches, broken bones, “gynecological disorders,” heart problems, sleep disorders, “flashbacks,” “gastrointestinal disorders,” and more.
What kinds of problems does “psychological violence” cause? The NCIPC site lists depression, “antisocial behavior,” “suicidal behavior in females,” self-esteem problems, lack of trust of men, “fear of intimacy” and general anxiety. The CDC site also points out that women who are victims of IPV face “strained relationships” with healthcare providers because they don’t want to have to explain to doctors and nurses how they got their bruises and cuts. That means, too often women who are IPV victims become isolated from the psychological and physical health services they need, which is a kind of double jeopardy for them.
Women who are IPV victims tend towards risky health behaviors, the NCIP site reports; some of those risky behaviors include “unprotected sex”; “early sexual initiation”; “choosing unhealthy sexual partners”; “having multiple sex partners”; and trading sex for money, food, and other needs. Those IPV female victims also tend towards bad habits like drug-taking, cigarette-smoking, driving while under the influence, abusing diet pills, eating disorders and more.
What is the annual cost to the nation of IPV against females? The Web site doesn’t have updated numbers on that issue, but they report that for 1995, IPV against women cost around $5.8 billion – of which $4.1 billion was racked up in “the direct costs of medical and mental health care,” and $1.8 billion was in the indirect costs of “lost productivity.”
The total number of women, collectively who are victims of IPV lose “nearly 8 million days of paid work” every year, the government calculates. And what percentage of all IPV victims are in fact women? The National Crime Victimization Survey, quoted by NCIP, reports that 85% of victims of intimate partner violence are women. The ethnicities of women who are most often find themselves victims of IPV are “American Indians and Alaskan Natives and men, African-American women, and Hispanic women.”
Finally, the actual “relationship factors” that are common to incidents of intimate partner violence include: “marital conflict – fights, tension, and other struggles”; “marital instability – divorces and separations”; “dominance and control of the relationship by the male”; the stress of negative economic situations; and “unhealthy family relationships and interactions.” group called “Family Violence Prevention Fund” (http://endabuse.org) claims that “on average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends” every day in America. As for teenage girls, about one in five has been physically or sexually abused by a boy she is dating or has dated, the family violence Web site reports. Also, other grim facts: 503,485 women are victims of a stalker every year; and eighty percent of women who are stalked by past husbands “are physically assaulted by that partner,” and about one-third are “sexually assaulted by that partner.”
What are the effects of an arrest on IPV? Is it more beneficial to have the perpetrator arrested, or required to undergo therapy? Research conducted by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, found conflicting results in six studies called the “National Institute of Justice’s Spouse Assault Replication Program.” But there were some data that could be used to promote the idea that the perpetrator should be arrested. For example, a review of 314 incidents in Minnesota shows that when the man who assaulted the woman was arrested, “Statistically significant reductions in subsequent offending were reported in both victim interviews” and in the records kept by police.
Putting today’s arrest procedures into historical perspective, the article points out that in 1968, New York City police began being trained to use “psychology to handle family crisis calls.” Studies showed at that time that handling a domestic argument or incident with psychology was preferable to making an arrest. However, by the late 1970s, it was determined that “nonpunitive and therapeutic” handling of violence against women was not effective, so New York police went back to arresting men, even if the police did not witness the violence perpetrated against the woman. As time went on, in the 1980s and 1990s, police officers were trained to “calm down” situations of domestic violence, listen to both partners, and then make an arrest if necessary. But the bottom line is that no matter what strategies and psychological approaches are employed by police, between 3.3 and 10 million children are witnesses to some form of domestic violence in their homes each year, according to Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Family Violence Prevention Fund. (2005). Domestic Violence is a Serious, Widespread Social
Problem in America: The Facts. Retrieved 20 October 2006 at http://www.endabuse.org/resources/facts/.
Maxwell, Christopher D., Garner, Joel H., & Fagan, Jeffrey a. (2001). The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner Violence: New Evidence From the Spouse Assault Replication Program.
National Institute of Justice (Research in Brief) / U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 30 Oct. 2006 at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/188199.pdf.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2006). Intimate Partner Violence: Fact
Sheet. Occurrence. Retrieved 29 Oct. 2006 at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/ipvfacts.htm.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2006). Intimate Partner Violence: Overview Retrieved 29 Oct. 2006 at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/ipvoverview.htm.
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