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Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures,[1] and affects people across society, irrespective of economic status,[2] and gender.[3] Family conflict studies find approximately equal rates of both verbal and physical assault by women and men in heterosexual relationships.[3]

In the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1995 women reported a six times greater rate of intimate partner violence than men.[4][5] However studies have found that men are much less likely to report victimization in these situations.[3]

The rate of minor assaults by women was 78 per 1,000 couples, compared with a rate for men of 72 per 1,000. The severe assault rate was 46 per 1,000 couples for assaults by women and 50 per 1,000 for assaults by men. Neither difference is statistically significant. Since these rates are based exclusively on information provided by women respondents, the near-equality in assault rates cannot be attributed to a gender bias in reporting."[citation needed] Results will vary, depending on specific wording of survey questions, how the survey is conducted, the definition of abuse or domestic violence used, the willingness or unwillingness of victims to admit that they have been abused and other factors.

One analysis found that "women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners".[5] However, studies have shown that women are more likely to be injured. Archer's meta-analysis[6] found that women suffer 65% of domestic violence injuries. A Canadian study showed that 7% of women and 6% of men were abused by their current or former partners, but female victims of spousal violence were more than twice as likely to be injured as male victims, three times more likely to fear for their life, twice as likely to be stalked, and twice as likely to experience more than ten incidents of violence.[7] However, Strauss notes that Canadian studies on domestic violence have simply excluded questions that ask men about being victimized by their wives.[citation needed]

Some studies show that lesbian relationships have similar levels of violence as heterosexual relationships,[8] while other studies report that lesbian relationships exhibit substantially higher rates of physical aggression.[9]

Against women

Percent of women surveyed (national surveys) who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner: Barbados (30%), Canada (29%), Egypt (34%), New Zealand (35%), Switzerland (21%), United States (25%).[10] Some surveys in specific places report figures as high as 50-70% of women surveyed who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner.[10] Others, including surveys in the Philippines and Paraguay, report figures as low as 10%.[10]

In India, every two hours a "bride burning" occurs because the woman had a small dowry or so that her husband can remarry.[11]

Statistics published in 2004, show that the rate of domestic violence victimisation for Indigenous women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-Indigenous women.[12] The rate of intimate partner violence in the U. S. has declined since 1993.[13]

South Africa is said to have the highest statistics of gender-based violence in the world and this includes rape and domestic violence (Foster 1999; The Integrated Regional Network [IRIN], Johannesburg, South Africa, 25 May 2002).[14] 80% of women surveyed in rural Egypt said that beatings were common and often justified, particularly if the woman refused to have sex with her husband.[15] In India, around 70% of women are victims of domestic violence.[16] The Human Rights Watch found that up to 90% of women in Pakistan were subject to verbal, sexual, emotional or physical abuse, within their own homes.[17] Up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Nigeria's Lagos State say they are victims to domestic violence.[18]

Between 1993 and 2001, U. S. women reported intimate partner violence almost seven times more frequently than men (a ratio of 20:3).[19] Statistics for the year 1994 showed that more than five times as many females reported being victimized by an intimate than did males.[20]

There is currently limited research on the abuse of lesbian women by their lesbian partners. However, an investigation by the Canadian Government saw some 19% of a survey of lesbian women respond to being victims of their partners.[21]


Domestic violence during pregnancy can be missed by medical professionals because it often presents in non-specific ways. A number of countries have been statistically analyzed to calculate the prevalence of this phenomenon:

  • UK prevalence: 2.5-3.4%[22][23]
  • USA prevalence: 3.2-33.7%[24][25]
  • Ireland prevalence: 12.5%[26]
  • Rates are higher in teenagers[27]
  • Severity and frequency increase postpartum (10% antenatally vs. 19% postnatally);[28] 21% at 3 months post partum[29]

There are a number of presentations that can be related to domestic violence during pregnancy: delay in seeking care for injuries; late booking, non-attenders at appointments, self-discharge; frequent attendance, vague problems; aggressive or over-solicitous partner; burns, pain, tenderness, injuries; vaginal tears, bleeding, STDs; and miscarriage.[citation needed]

Domestic violence can also affect the fetus and the subsequent child. Physical abuse is associated with neonatal death (1.5% versus 0.2%), and verbal abuse is associated with low birth weight (7.6% versus 5.1%).[30]

Against men

Women's violence towards men is a serious social problem.[31] While much attention has been focused on domestic violence against women, researchers argue that domestic violence against men is a substantial social problem worthy of attention.[5] However, the issue of victimization of men by women has been contentious, due in part to studies which report drastically different statistics regarding domestic violence.

Some studies—typically crime studies—show that men are substantially more likely than women to use violence.[32] According to a July 2000 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, data from the Bureau of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey consistently show that women are at significantly greater risk of intimate partner violence than are men. Other studies—typically family and domestic violence studies—show that men are more likely to inflict injuries, but also that when all acts of physical aggression or violence are considered in aggregate, women are equally violent as men,[33] or more violent than men[34][35][36][37]

In May, 2007, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control reported on rates of self-reported violence among intimate partners using data from a 2001 study. In the study, almost one-quarter of participants reported some violence in their relationships. Half of these involved one-sided ("non-reciprocal") attacks and half involved both assaults and counter assaults ("reciprocal violence"). Women reported committing one-sided attacks more than twice as often as men (70% versus 29%). In all cases of intimate partner violence, women were more likely to be injured than men, but 25% of men in relationships with two-sided violence reported injury compared to 20% of women reporting injury in relationships with one-sided violence. Women were more likely to be injured in non-reciprocal violence.[38]

Strauss argues that these discrepancies between the two data sets are due to several factors. For example, Strauss notes that crime statistics are compiled and analyzed differently from domestic violence statistics.[citation needed] Additionally, Strauss notes that most studies show that while men inflict the greater portion of injuries, women are at least as likely as men to shove, punch, slap or otherwise physically assault their partner, and that such relatively minor assaults often escalate to more serious assaults. Minor assaults perpetrated by women are also a major problem, even when they do not result in injury, because they put women in danger of much more severe retaliation by men. [...] It will be argued that in order to end 'wife beating,' it is essential for women also to end what many regard as a "harmless" pattern of slapping, kicking, or throwing something at a male partner.[citation needed] Strauss also notes that data confirming that women can be violent have been suppressed because the data contradicts preconceptions that men are responsible for most or all domestic violence.[citation needed]

The 2000 CDC report, based on phone interviews with 8000 men and 8000 women, reported that 7.5% of men claim to have been raped or assaulted by an intimate at some time in their life time (compared to 25% of women), and 0.9 percent of men claim to have been raped or assaulted in the previous 12 months (compared to 1.5% of women).[32]

A 2007-2008 online non-random, self-report survey of the experiences and health of men who sustained partner violence in the past year. The study showed that male victims of IPV are very hesitant to report the violence or seek help. Reasons given for non-reporting were they (1) may be ashamed to come forward; (2) may not be believed; and (3) may be accused of being a batterer when they do come forward. The 229 U.S. heterosexual men, between 18 and 59, had been physically assaulted by their female partner within previous year and did seek help. The researchers say their findings emphasize the need for prevention on all levels:

  • Primary prevention: Educate public and providers that both sexes can be IPV victims
  • Secondary prevention: First responders (police, hotlines, medical professionals) should take concerns seriously from all individuals (including males) seeking help
  • Tertiary prevention: Rehabilitative services available to all individuals[39]

Against children

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, "female parents acting alone" were most common perpetrators of child abuse.[40]

When it comes to domestic violence towards children involving physical abuse, research in the UK by the NSPCC indicated that "most violence occurred at home" (78 per cent). 40—60% of men and women who abuse other adults also abuse their children.[41] Girls whose fathers batter their mothers are 6.5 times more likely to be sexually abused by their fathers than are girls from non-violent homes.[42]

In China in 1989, 39,000 baby girls died during their first year of life because they didn't receive the same medical care that would be given to a male child.[11]

In Asia alone, about one million children working in the sex trade are held in slavery-like conditions.[11]

Against teens

Teen dating violence is a pattern of controlling behavior by one teenager over another teenager who are in a dating relationship. While there are many similarities to "traditional" domestic violence there are also some differences. Teens are much more likely than adults to become isolated from their peers as the result of controlling behavior by their boyfriend/girlfriend. Also, for many teens the abusive relationship may be their first dating experience and have never had a "normal" dating experience with which to compare it.

World Health Organization

The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the same year, concluded that civil society and governments have acknowledged that violence against women is a public health and human rights concern. Work in this area has resulted in the establishment of international standards, but the task of documenting the magnitude of violence against women and producing reliable, comparative data to guide policy and monitor implementation has been exceedingly difficult. The World Health Organisation Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women 2005 is a response to this difficulty. Published in 2005 it is a groundbreaking study which analysed data from 10 countries and sheds new light on the prevalence of violence against women. It seeks to look at violence against women a public health policy perspective. The findings will be used to inform a more effective response from government, including the health, justice and social service sectors, as a step towards fulfilling the state’s obligation to eliminate violence against women under international human rights laws.


Measures of the incidence of violence in intimate relationships can differ markedly in their findings depending on the measures used. Care is needed when using domestic violence statistics to ensure that both gender bias and under-reporting issues do not affect the inferences that are drawn from the statistics.

Some researchers, such as Michael P. Johnson, suggest that where and how domestic violence is measured also affects findings, and caution is needed to ensure statistics drawn from one class of situations are not applied to another class of situations in a way that might have fatal consequences.[43] Other researchers, such as David Murray Fergusson, counter that domestic violence prevention services, and statistics that they produce, target the extreme end of domestic violence and preventing child abuse rather than domestic violence between couples.[44]

Gender bias

"Community-based samples" show a symmetry in the rates women and men are perpetrators or victims of certain forms of domestic violence. "Agency samples" and "hospital samples" show that men commit up to 90% domestic violence.[43]

Survey approaches to gathering domestic violence statistics tend to show parity in the use of violence by both men and women against partners, while approaches using data from reports of domestic violence offending tends to show women experiencing violence from male partners as the majority of cases (over 80%).

Research based on the survey-based Conflict Tactics Scale, a measure of intrafamily conflict and violence focusing on the adults in the family developed by Murray Straus (1979)[clarification needed], includes national surveys on the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States and other countries. These include the two U.S. National Family Violence Surveys (1975 and 1985)[45] and the National Violence Against Women Survey (2000) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). This research has tended to show that men and women are equally violent. The National Violence Against Women Survey (2000) found that women experience more intimate partner violence than do men, women experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners than do men, and that violence perpetrated against women by intimates is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

Research based on reported domestic violence or on police records show men to be the perpetrators and women the victims of most domestic violence. However, the mere intervention of police may introduce a degree of gender bias into reporting.

When faced with a domestic violence situation, police officers often find it far easier to take action against a male protagonist than a female one.[citation needed] Removing one party will normally defuse an altercation. Often police will choose the man, because his arrest is not normally going to involve any children[citation needed]; while removing the woman may entail involving other social services to care for the children for a time, something that may not be in the children's best interests, or may cause a significant delay. The fact that the majority of police officers are also male and that non-domestic offending is often committed by males may also influence an officer's decision.

Also, police responding to a complaint may act more favorably to the complainant than other parties. Some researchers have suggested that women are more likely to report domestic violence to police than men are, and this is a cause of gender bias. For example, in Ireland, 29% of female victims and 5% of male victims of domestic abuse reported the abuse to the police.[5] In the United States, male victims are less likely than female victims to report rape, physical assault, or stalking.[46]

Injury and hospital admission statistics also suggest that males are more frequently perpetrators of injury causing violence.[citation needed] However, the relative strengths and other physical differences between males and females could be a factor in this reporting bias, as males may be more likely to injure females in otherwise equivalent circumstances.


The problem of under-reporting to police is believed to be substantial. However, estimates about how much domestic violence is not reported vary widely. It must also be remembered that a significant amount of non-domestic violence crime is also not reported to police. Depending on what statistics are chosen, anywhere between a tenth of incidents and nothing significantly less than what would be expected for any other incident are reported to police.[clarification needed]

Many crime victimization surveys, from many countries, do show that there is a correlation between the under-reporting of crime and the degree of intimacy between the victim and the offender. The degree of seriousness of offending also affects reporting, with less serious offending less likely to be reported to police. Also the nature of the offending affects reporting, with sexual offenses far less likely to be reported, even when they are serious.


A 1992 Council of Europe study on domestic violence against women found that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6 and 10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

The British Crime Survey for 2006-2007 reported that 0.5% of people (0.6% of women and 0.3% of men) reported being victims of domestic violence during that year and 44.3% of domestic violence was reported to the police. According to the survey, and 312,000 women and 93,000 men were victims of domestic violence.[47]

The Northern Ireland Crime Survey for 2005 reported that 13% of people (16% of women and 10% of men) reported being victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives.[48]

The National Study of Domestic Abuse for 2005 reported that 213,000 women and 88,000 men reported being victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. According to the study, one in seven women and one in sixteen men were victims of severe physical abuse, severe emotional abuse, or sexual abuse.[5]

In the United Kingdom, the police estimate that around 35% of domestic violence against women is actually reported.[citation needed] A 2002 Women's Aid study found that 74% of separated women suffered from post-separation violence.[citation needed]

United States

The National Violence Against Women Survey for 2000 reported that 25% of women and 7.6% of men reported being victims of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. It also reported that 1.5% (or 1.5 million) of women and 0.9% (or 0.83 million) of men reported being victims of rape or physical assault for the past year.[46]

As pointed out by a 2006 Amnesty International report, The Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women From Sexual Violence in the USA[49] the data for Native women are very different. Statistics gathered by the U.S. government reveal that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be sexual assaulted than women in the United States in general;[50] more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime.[51]

According to Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR) report:

  • Women are just as likely as men to engage in partner aggression (Kelly 2003)
  • Men experience over one-third of DV-related injuries (Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 126, No. 5, pages 651-680)
  • Men are far less likely to report DV incidents than women (Stets and Straus 1990)
  • The myths about domestic violence are numerous (Gelles 1995)
  • Many of these myths are based on DV studies that use biased survey methods (Arriaga and Oskamp 1999)

According to Southern Connecticut State University: "In 95% of family violence cases the victims are women beaten by male partners. In 1% of the cases the reverse is true. There are an estimated 28 million battered women in the U.S., more than half of all married women in the country. In the U.S., one woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 9 seconds. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S.; more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. 70% of the assault victims seen in the emergency room of Boston City Hospital are women who have been attacked in their own homes. 3 out of 5 women in the U.S. will be battered in their lifetime." Domestic Violence Facts

Eighty-five percent of these orders are issued against men (Young, Independent Women’s Forum, 2005). Family judges often issue orders of protection or restraining orders in the absence of any direct threat of harm (Heleniak, Rutgers Law Review, Spring 2005). Often these orders are used as "part of the gamesmanship of divorce." (Kasper, Illinois Bar Journal, June 2005 and Kiernan, New Jersey Law Journal, April 1988)

New research published in the Journal of Family Psychology says that contrary to media and public opinion women commit more acts of violence than men in eleven categories: throw something, push, grab, shove, slap, kick, bite, hit or threaten a partner with a knife or gun. The study, which is based on interviews with 1,615 married or cohabiting couples and extrapolated nationally using census data, found that 21 percent of couples reported domestic violence. The Washington Times confirms study.

Dr. Gerald P. Koocher, American Psychology Association President, stated October 2006 that "psychological science is not politically correct." He adds, "Several studies of domestic violence have suggested that males and females in relationships have an equal likelihood of acting out physical aggression, although differing in tactics and potential for causing injury (e.g., women assailants will more likely throw something, slap, kick, bite, or punch their partner, or hit them with an object, while males will more likely beat up their partners, and choke or strangle them)."

Honor killing in the United States

An article in the Spring 2009 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, published by the notorious Islamophobe [52] Daniel Pipes, argues that the United States is far behind Europe in acknowledging that honor killings are a special form of domestic violence, requiring special training and special programs to protect the young Muslim women and girls most subject to it.[53] The article suggests that the fear of being labeled "culturally insensitive" (political correctness) prevents US government officials and the media from both identifying and accurately reporting these women's murders as "honor killings" when they occur.[53] Failing to accurately describe the problem makes it more difficult to develop public policies to address it.[53]


Recent findings - 2006 - from the * Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that overall, more males than females are victims of physical assault (10.8% vs 5.8%). However, women are most at risk of assault in the home and from men they know, while men are most at risk of assault in public spaces and from men they don’t know. Among the large numbers of men physically assaulted each year, close to 70 per cent were assaulted by strangers. Less than five per cent were assaulted by a female partner or ex-partner. In contrast, among the female victims of physical assault, 31 per cent were assaulted by a male partner or ex-partner (Table 16, p. 30). Thirty per cent of people who had experienced violence by a current partner since the age of 15 were male, while seventy per cent were female (Table 2, p. 16).

Men's rights activists and others supporting male victims argue that there is a range of socialization related factors that would lead to very high levels of under-reporting by male victims. They also argue that until recently, very few studies asked about female-on-male (or female-on-female) domestic violence; so while these figures are appallingly high, the prevalence of violence against men is typically not included in the figures.


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