Around the world, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In the United States, nearly one in every three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood. It is estimated that approximately five million American women experience a serious assault by an intimate partner each year. Nonetheless, the precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons: it often goes unreported, even on surveys; there is no nationwide organization that gathers information from local police departments about the number of substantiated reports and calls, and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence. One study estimated that more than 3% (approximately 1.8 million) of women were severely assaulted by male partners or cohabitants over the course of a year, while other studies indicate the percentage of women experiencing dating violence, including sexual assault, physical violence, or verbal and emotional abuse, ranges as high as 65%.
However, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a survey that resulted in the acknowledgment that more than 1 million violent crimes were committed against persons by their current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends. According to estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey, there were nearly 700,000 nonfatal violence victimizations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims in 2001. Out of this number 85% were crimes against women.
Even though we don’t know precisely how frequently domestic violence occurs (and some estimates suggest that it is as much as 10 times more prevalent than reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics), the report does help with identifying prevalent trends. The rates of domestic violence vary along several lines, including race, gender, economic and educational status, and geographical location.