The Story Domestic Violence Statistics Don’t Tell

Depression and painThere is a life-threatening condition that causes millions of injuries and 1,300 deaths each year in the United States. Despite living in an age of medical marvels and technological advancements, this condition adversely affects millions of Americans across all sexual, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Members of the LGBTQ community, elderly people, and disabled individuals are significantly affected by it. This condition—with the potential to destroy individuals, friendships, intimate relationships, marriages, and families—is domestic violence.

Domestic abuse is a behavioral epidemic in the U.S. Domestic violence statistics, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), indicate that on average 20 American citizens per minute become victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, approximately 10.5 million American men and women reported being physically abused by an intimate partner in the past 12 months.

No social group is completely insulated from the damaging influence of domestic violence. Worse yet, the pain and devastation experienced by victims might continue for years, often extending far beyond any immediate physical injury. In support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in a continuous effort to reduce the number of domestic violence victims, GoodTherapy.org highlights another side of domestic violence that statistics don’t always tell.

Domestic Violence in LGBTQ Relationships

At first glance, one might believe that same-gender/gender-variant couples will exhibit less domestic abuse than heterosexual couples. However, statistics show that domestic violence is just as pervasive—and just as lethal—among LGBTQ couples as it is among heterosexual ones.

The NISVS reports that one in two bisexual women and one in eight lesbian women (versus one in six heterosexual women) has been raped in her lifetime. Additionally, one in two bisexual men and two in five gay men (versus one in five heterosexual men) have endured sexual abuse other than rape. Results from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) show that women who live with female intimate partners were less likely to experience intimate partner violence (IPV) than women who live with male intimate partners (11% versus 21.7%). However, men who resided with a same-sex intimate partner experienced more IPV than men who lived with a female intimate partner (23% versus 7.4%).

Obstacles for Domestic Violence Support in LGBTQ Relationships

Domestic abuse victims are often overwhelmed by feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, and fear, and these emotions can prevent survivors from seeking services or reaching out for help. Victims of spousal abuse have the added burden of considering what effect any revelation might have on their marriage, their long-term financial health, their legal privileges and benefits as a married person, as well as the legal custody of their children. For victims of domestic violence within the LGBTQ community, seeking support can be even more complicated.

Victims within the LGBTQ community often face types of domestic abuse unique to their social group. For example, threats to reveal a partner’s sexual orientation to family members, friends, or an employer might be used to coerce or control an abuse victim. An abuser might also hide or discard a transgender partner’s needed hormones in attempt to control him or her. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) explains that these examples are extremely challenging situations in LGBTQ relationships that abuse victims in heterosexual relationships do not have to face.

Additionally, less information has been gathered and studied about LGBTQ domestic abuse in comparison with domestic abuse in heterosexual relationships. Therefore, fewer resources are available specifically for individuals in abusive same-sex/gender-variant relationships. The NRCDV suggests that with little or no legal recognition of intimate LGBTQ relationships, and with many LGBTQ couples unable to get legally married, fewer laws exist to offer distinct protection to domestic abuse victims in LGBTQ relationships. Cultural attitudes such as homophobia, heterosexism, and the fact some LGBTQ partners conceal their relationships also cause many in the LGBTQ community not to report domestic violence in the first place.

Domestic Violence among the Elderly and the Disabled

Like domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships, domestic violence also affects disabled and elderly people in specific ways. The American Psychological Association estimates that 4 million older Americans fall victim to elder abuse each year, while the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) reports that disabled women are at greater risk for intimate partner violence than women without disabilities. The National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that disabled people were more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted or raped as people without a disability.

According to worldwide statistics, one out of every 10 older adults will experience abuse each month. However, only one in 24 of these cases will be reported, so the true number of cases may be higher. Elderly and disabled victims of abuse face several barriers to finding safety and support. Among them are challenges with mobility, manipulation of medication by abusers, fear of losing independence, and the fear of being permanently placed in a health-care institution.

Domestic Violence Is a Major Problem for Both Females and Males

While domestic abuse statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that women are much more likely to be victims of IPV than men, it is important to remember that both genders are susceptible to abuse. Reports from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCADV) suggest that as many as 835,000 men are victims of domestic violence each year.

With so many men clearly experiencing violence from an intimate partner, why do so few male victims seek available support services? There are several explanations: the stigma of being a male abuse victim, perceived nonconformity to the “macho” stereotype, fear that reported abuse will not be believed, denial of victim status, and a lack of support from family, friends, and the community. Also, men tend to be more financially independent and less fearful after leaving a violent relationship—thus relatively few men make use of emergency shelters and the services they provide.

Getting the Support You Need

If you are searching online for help, please be aware that it is common for abusers to track their victims’ Internet search histories. You can clear your browsing history in Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer by visiting the customization/settings/tools options in the upper-right corner below the red X used to close the browser window.

There are many types of support within communities for victims of domestic violence. Close family members and friends are among the most powerful and most accessible resources, but they are not available to many victims. Here are additional resources for victims of domestic violence:

  • For women and men, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD). Callers may be guided to local shelters in their community and/or vital services, and there are LGBTQ-specific resources available.
  • For local resources, WomensHealth.gov offers this section on its website to direct victims by their individual states to support and safety.
  • The National Center on Elder Abuse provides valuable information and resources for preventing and reporting elder abuse, while Adult Protective Services, present in all 50 states, is set up to receive and investigate claims of elder abuse and neglect. To find Adult Protective Services near you, visit this page on the National Adult Protective Service Association’s website.

Therapy is highly recommended for victims of domestic violence, as they often struggle with significant emotional and psychological issues (such as posttraumatic stress, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks, etc.) long after leaving the abusive relationship. If you or someone you care about is struggling with the emotional and/or psychological effects of domestic abuse, consider seeking the help of a qualified mental health professional.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Elder abuse and neglect: In search of solutions. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/elder-abuse.aspx
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). NISVS infographic. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/infographic.html
  3. Defrank, P. (2014). Infographic: Domestic violence by the numbers. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/nfl-controversy/infographic-domestic-violence-numbers-n208896
  4. Delaware Coalition against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Who is affected by domestic violence? Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.dcadv.org/who-affected-domestic-violence
  5. National Coalition against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Male victims of violence. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.ncadv.org/files/MaleVictims.pdf
  6. National Resource Center on Domestic Abuse. (2007). LGBT communities and domestic violence: Information and resources. Retrieved from http://www.vawnet.org/Assoc_Files_VAWnet/NRC_LGBTDV-Full.pdf
  7. Recognizing elder abuse and knowing your rights. (2017). National Council for Aging Care. Retrieved from http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse
  8. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. ( 2009). National crime victimization survey. Crime against people with disabilities. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/capd07.pdf

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  • Dana

    Dana

    October 21st, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    until I read this I will be honest by saying that I didn’t clearly understand just how pervasive and widespread this problem is in our country. This is something that is effecting so many people across the board that it seems to know no boundaries. I guess that because have not had any personl experience with this then I didn’t understand just how big of an issue this really is and why there is always such a need to get involved and to step in hen you think that there could be something going on in a home. No one is immune to this- it knows no boundaries, so the best thing that we can all do it seems is to stay informed, get involved, and never turn a blind eye to the issue.

  • LE

    LE

    October 21st, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    I know that there are all sorts of resources avaialble but I would love to know how many people who need them actually utilize them. I think that out of fear or even not having the knowledge and awareness that they are out there keeps many from not using the services which they have available to them.

  • Logan G.

    Logan G.

    October 22nd, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    I find it so shameful that so many of our older citizens are the ones who are confronting this scurge of abuse against them.

    These are people who have made our society what it is and yet there are those who take no pride in that and decide for whatever reasons to take out their frustrations on this segment of the population who really cannot even defebd themselves. They have no defenses and no way out.

  • Claude C.

    Claude C.

    October 22nd, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    No matter how often I read about it, I am always surprised that there seems to be just as much abuse in gay relationships as there is in straight ones.
    I guess that I have this mistaken belief that gay and lesbian couples would be so much different than what I have experienced in my own life, but then you go and read statistics like these and it just goes to show you that for better or for worse, they are probably much more like you and me than most of us want to believe.
    I find it troubling that this is happening so much in every town and community and there still seems to be no real answers for how to stop the violence. And then you see it played out on tv when big name stars are also involved in their own drama and it makes it seem that no one can escape the temptation of violence and using that kind of power over someone.

  • Kristen M.

    Kristen M.

    October 22nd, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Great article. I love that this is taking a closer look on the victims (or, a more empowering word, survivors) of interpersonal violence.

    However, I think that more could have been said about men’s roles in these abusive situations. Yes, far more women feel the effects of interpersonal violence, and men can also be victimized. More often than not, the perpetrator of this abuse is male, whether it is against another male or a female. This speaks to the problem of masculinity in our culture. Jackson Katz does a great job educating people about what he calls men’s violence against women; his book “The Macho Paradox” is one of my favorites. It is not a passive, subject-less phrase like “violence against women”, because we know overwhelmingly who commits these acts of violence. I believe that our culture needs to understand the pivotal role that masculinity plays in interpersonal violence in order to begin to solve this heartbreaking issue.

  • Victoria

    Victoria

    October 23rd, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    I have read many, many articles on Domestic Violence. Very few have brought PTSD to light. Those of us are not just survivors of Domestic Violence! We are survivors EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have been a survivor for four years now but I battle these demons constantly! I pray long-term counseling for those gay or straight, male or female can help! I encourage any survivor to seek out counseling. The physical “shadows” are gone but those “shadows” don’t ever leave your heart/mind completely.

  • steph

    steph

    October 24th, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    The statistics can’t always tell the full story because there are those who are still ashamed to tell their own personal stories.
    I think that those who are victims have often been so brainwashed into thinking that they are to blame that they are afraid to speak up and tell others that this is happening to them. They are afraid that they will be judged as being weak or that someone will tell them that this is happening to them and it is their fault… no one wants to be made to feel this way so instead of being open and honest about what is happening to them they choose to keep it all on the inside.

  • LoriMac

    LoriMac

    October 25th, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    “on average 20 American citizens per minute become victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.” That statistic blows me away! The ones with whom you are intimate should be the ones who would never even consider doing this to you and apparently there are far too many people who must experience this anyway. Shocking that the numbers are this large.

  • Riley O.

    Riley O.

    October 25th, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    I once lost a really good frined of mine because if this very thing. I pushed and tried to get her to leave her husband and get help but she was never in the right place to do that and I guess that to this day they are probably still together. I knew that she was being hurt and it hurt me to see that but what else could I do? Instead of listening to me she decided to choose him over me, and that’s fine, that was her husband and the father of her kids, but it still worried me to no end that he would end up really hurting one of them one day.

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