Every minute, about 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the rate of domestic violence has dropped significantly over the past decade, the issue remains extremely relevant and far-reaching, and has been spotlighted recently by cases involving NFL players Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, as well as pop star Chris Brown.
While these well known and well covered stories have shed light on domestic violence and helped alert the public to its dangers, many incidents still go unreported and unknown.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in which someone uses physical, sexual, psychological or other types of harm against a current or former partner, an immediate family member or another relative. It can also include stalking, threats or other behaviors meant to manipulate or control someone else.
Between 2003 and 2012, domestic violence accounted for over 20 percent of all violent crime in the U.S. Intimate partner violence – meaning violence involving current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends – is the most common type of domestic violence.
It’s more common in dating relationships than active marriages.
The majority of domestic abuse offenders aren’t the spouses of victims – they are most likely to be current or former boyfriends or girlfriends.
Intimate partner violence is very prevalent on college campuses, with estimates of dating violence ranging from 10 to 50 percent, the Department of Justice reported.
Male victims are abused by non-spouse family members at a higher rate than female victims.
More than 1 in 3 women will be victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, while more than 1 in 4 men will be, according to a CDC survey.
Both men and women are most likely to be targeted by people they currently date or used to date. But the National Crime Victimization Survey showed that male victims were more likely to have been targeted by family members or other relatives than were females.
Female victims, on the other hand, were more likely than males to be victimized by their spouse or ex-spouse.
Young women are the most likely targets.
Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to experience intimate partner violence.
Domestic violence has dropped, but take a closer look.
The rate of domestic violence for persons 12 and older dropped by 63 percent from 1994 to 2012, the Department of Justice said. But while that may sound promising, it trails the 67 percent fall in overall violence over the same time period.
Intimate partner violence affects sexual health.
One important consequence of intimate partner violence is that it can increase a victim’s risk of contracting an HIV infection, the CDC said. Not only do victims have the chance of getting HIV from a perpetrator, but research indicates that males and females who experience intimate partner violence are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, like injection drug use and sex without a condom, which can lead to an HIV infection.
Women in violent relationships also are four times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection than those who are not, according to the CDC.
Additionally, sexual abuse at an early age is a risk factor for females later contracting an STI, as it can contribute to risky behavior later in life, such as having sex with multiple and/or unfamiliar partners and not using condoms.
Domestic violence can seep into other areas of your life.
Domestic violence makes people more likely to suffer from depression and suicidal behavior and often negatively impacts a victim’s ability to perform well at work. Without adequate financial means, victims may find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship without enough money to leave. Altogether, intimate partner violence causes women to lose about 8 million days of paid work each year, according to a 2003 report.
Some cities are tackling the problem.
Some areas, like New York City, have strengthened efforts to help victims leave abusive relationships. Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to bolster city programs that provide shelter to people fleeing domestic violence. The mayor’s plan would provide emergency housing for up to 13,300 adults and children per year, instead of the current 8,800 people, according to The New York Times.
In June, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill that penalizes domestic violence offenders based on the severity of the attack and other factors, instead of basing punishment largely on their number of previous offenses. It also prevents offenders from owning guns, depending on their crimes, The Associated Press reported. For the state – which was determined to have the highest rate of women murdered by men in 2013, according to a Violence Policy Center study released last month – the new law was a major step to better aid domestic violence victims.
But many victims’ stories still aren’t heard.
Despite progress, many cases of domestic violence stay in the dark. Only a little over half of cases are reported to authorities, and only about a third of victims injured in intimate partner violence receive medical care, the Department of Justice said.