Take a second to picture a victim of domestic violence in your mind. It could be anyone–someone you think could be a victim. You probably thought of a white female in her twenties. It is true that white women between the ages of 18-24 are the most likely to be abused by an intimate partner (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2020). Most would find it hard to picture, say, an elderly Native American male as a victim of domestic abuse. National statistics, however, suggest he too could become a victim of intimate partner violence. In fact, official U.S. figures show that people of all gender identities, ages, races and ethnicities and sexual orientations are susceptible. Domestic abuse can occur across the spectrum of society.
The official domestic violence statistics for minority groups are likely under-estimates, since their mistrust in police authorities, legal status in the country, cultural norms, fear of others’ negative judgments, and reduced access to resources lead them to report incidents of domestic violence less often. This just makes it even more crucial for others to become aware that domestic abuse permeates all spheres of society.
It is estimated that “1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused, and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one type of coercive control (isolation from friends and family, manipulation, blackmail, financial control)” by an intimate partner at some point in their life (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Nearly half, that is “48.8% of men have gone through at least one psychologically aggressive behavior (being kept track of, insulted or humiliated, or felt threatened)” by an intimate partner in their lifetime (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). In fact, “1 in 20, that is 5% of male murder victims are killed by intimate partners” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
Perpetrators of domestic violence against men may be female or male, depending on the specific form of abuse. For example, “among male stalking victims, 44.3% reported having been stalked by only male perpetrators, and 46.7% reported having been stalked by only female abusers. About 1 in 18 male stalking victims, that is 5.5% reported having been stalked by both male and female perpetrators in their life” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
Unfortunately there are no statistics for non-binary gender identities, reflecting the lack of coverage regarding domestic abuse victims who don’t identify under archaic gender specifications. This only highlights the need for more diverse data collection.
Teenagers are also at risk for intimate partner abuse. “Nearly 20.9% of female high school students and 13.4% of male high school students report having been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Every year, “a total of nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. are physically abused by dating partners” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
More than half, that is “57% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship, and 50% of youth who reported dating violence and rape also admitted to having attempted suicide (compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys)” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
With regards to college-age individuals, “43% of dating college women reported experiencing abusive behaviors from their partner” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). In fact, “date rape among college students accounts for 35% of attempted rapes, 22.9% of threatened rapes, and 12.8% of completed rapes” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Additionally, “over 13% of college women report that they have been stalked. Of these, 42% were stalked by a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
Older adults in need of assistance with day-to-day activities are also at increased risk of abuse. In fact, “an estimated 13.5% of older adults have suffered emotional abuse since the age of 60, and approximately 50% of older adults with dementia are mistreated or abused” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Every year, “approximately 4 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological and/or other forms of abuse and neglect, with 76.1% of physical abuse toward older adults being perpetrated by a family member” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
Only 1 out of every 24 cases of elder abuse and 15.5% of elder sexual abuse is reported to the police (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). However, abuse in later life can be devastating and result in the loss of independence, security, health, dignity, life savings, or one’s life (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Specifically, victims of elder financial abuse lost an estimated $2.9 billion in 2011, and research indicates that, relative to those who do not experience violence, older adult victims of abuse have shorter lifespans (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015).
“Almost half (47.5%) of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 45.1% of non-Hispanic Black women, 37.3% of non-Hispanic White women, 34.4% of Hispanic women, and 18.3% of Asian-Pacific Islander women experience contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime” (Safe Horizon, n.d.).
Even though American Indian and Alaska Native women experience extremely high rates of domestic violence, many choose to not report abuse for various reasons. First, their tribe may have little or no access to law enforcement (Safe Horizon, n.d.). Second, in small and isolated communities, victims may fear retaliation from perpetrators and their social networks (Safe Horizon, n.d.). Finally, many also do not speak about their abuse, because they see it as futile (Safe Horizon, n.d.).
By intentionally denying BIPOC folx access to economic opportunities, the ability to build intergenerational wealth, healthcare, education, and a sense of safety from governmental systems, racist policies increase the prevalence of risk factors for domestic violence in Black communities (Safe Horizon, n.d.). Systemic racism creates numerous obstacles for survivors seeking safety. Specifically, law enforcement officials may arrest Black survivors; police, jurors, and judges are less likely to believe Black, relative to white survivors (Safe Horizon, n.d.).
2 in 5 lesbian women, 3 in 5 bisexual women, and 1 in 3 heterosexual women will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (Safe Horizon, n.d.). The equivalent statistics for gay men are 1 in 4, 1 in 3 for bisexual men, and 3 in 10 for heterosexual men (Safe Horizon, n.d.).
The thought that intimate partner violence affects so many from so many walks of life is frightening; it reminds us that entering an abusive relationship can truly happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But this fear and awareness should also serve as a beacon of hope for those who might currently be suffering in silence. No matter how different our backgrounds, we all have valid thoughts on domestic violence, and, more importantly, on how to eradicate it. No matter our gender, age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, we can all join hands and work together to stop someone else, who might look and be completely different from us, from becoming a victim of domestic violence.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2020). Domestic violence. Retrieved from https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/domestic_violence-2020080709350855.pdf?1596811079991.
NCADV. (2015). Domestic violence national statistics. Retrieved from www.ncadv.org
NCADV. (2015). Facts about dating abuse and teen violence. Retrieved from www.ncadv.org
NCADV. (2015). Domestic abuse in later life. Retrieved from https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/abuse_in_later_life–formatted.pdf.
Safe Horizon. (n.d.) Domestic violence statistics & facts. Retrieved from https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/domestic-violence-statistics-facts/#definition/