New Studies Document Prevalence, Cost of Violence, Inadequate Response

Several studies and surveys released in recent months underscore the grave impact of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women and children.


More than seven million women and two million men in this country have been stalked, finds a study from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stalking affects seven percent of women (one in 14 women) and two percent of men (one in 50 men) in the U.S. at some time in their lives. The study was published in the August 2006 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Stalking in the United States, Recent National Prevalence Estimates” defines stalking as “being followed, spied on, or communicated with, without consent at a level perceived to be somewhat dangerous or life threatening.” It finds that individuals who are never married, separated, widowed or divorced report significantly higher rates of stalking than those who are married or living with a partner. Those 55 or older, or retired, are least likely to have been stalked.

Results are based on findings from the Injury Control and Risk telephone survey conducted from 2001 to 2003. Nearly 10,000 women and men aged 18 and older participated.

Prevalence, Impact of Abuse

A survey of 3,429 women finds that 44 percent have experienced intimate partner violence in their lives, and nearly 12 percent have experienced it in the last five years.
The random sample phone survey questioned English-speaking women ages 18 to 64 who were enrolled in Group Health Cooperative, a large nonprofit HMO with 550,000 members in Washington and Idaho. It was conducted from 2003 to 2005, with the results published in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Approximately 15 percent of the abused women were abused by two or more partners, the survey found, and 14 to 53 percent experienced 20 or more incidents of violence. Nearly half of women who experienced intimate partner violence in the past five years (45 percent) experienced multiple types of abuse. For five to nine percent of victims, the violence encompassed more than 20 years.

Younger and lower income women, single parents, and women who experienced physical or sexual abuse or observed intimate partner violence when they were children were at higher risk for intimate partner violence as adults. The more recent the violence and the longer its duration, the worse the victim’s physical and mental health was likely to be.

“This study has important implications for healthcare providers and policymakers,” authors write. “From the present work, a picture emerges of both physical and non-physical intimate partner violence as very common, chronic, intergenerational, and present in highly overlapping forms… in day to day medical practice…these efforts should employ universal routine questioning in health history questionnaires… the risks of not asking about a major underlying condition that affects nearly half of women’s lives are far greater than the risks of asking.”

Children Who Witness Abuse and Bully

A study published in the August 19 issue of Pediatrics finds that children who witness violence and abuse at home are more likely to display physically aggressive acts of bullying than their peers, and are at greater risk for depression and anxiety. The study, by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, is the first in the U.S. to examine the association of child witnesses to intimate partner violence and involvement in bullying.

“Childhood Bullying Involvement and Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence” examines bullying behaviors in 112 children, age six to 13. Researchers found that, although children who witness abuse at home are more physically aggressive, there is no correlation between intimate partner violence and being victimized by peers. Nearly all child bullies in the study were victims themselves.

Partner Violence Associated with Homicide & Suicide

Intimate partner conflict is a precursor to both homicide and suicide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System, the only surveillance system that regularly collects and consolidates information from multiple sources on all violent deaths occurring in participating states.

Twenty percent of homicides were directly associated with intimate partner conflict and, in 32 percent of homicides, victims knew the suspects involved. Intimate partner violence resulting in death was most common among victims age 40 to 44. Felony crimes (occurring before the homicide) and intimate partner violence were the factors that played the largest roles in homicides.

Mental health disorders and intimate partner conflicts were the factors that played the largest roles in suicides, with problems with a current or former intimate partner contributing to more than one in four suicides (28 percent).

Published in the July 7 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the new data is based on information collected from 13 states that participated in the System in 2003 and 2004. Researchers examined “circumstance information,” which was available in about three in five of the nearly 6,000 violent deaths recorded.

Asylum Rulings Uneven from Judge to Judge

While some immigration court judges grant nine in ten requests for asylum that come before them, others deny nearly all such requests, according to an analysis from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, using data from the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Released in July, the study found a great disparity in the way judges handle asylum applications.

The analysis looked at recorded cases in which judges decided asylum cases from Fiscal Year 1994 through the first months of Fiscal Year 2005. Denial rates among 208 immigration judges, each of whom decided at least 100 cases, ranged from a low of 10 percent to a high of 98 percent. On average, these 208 judges denied asylum in 65 percent of cases.

“The problems of the immigration court go far beyond the failings of a few rotten apples,” the analysis says. “Rather, the examination of the case-by-case records appear to document a far broader problem: longstanding, widespread and systematic weaknesses in both the operation and management of this court.” A New York Times story on immigration courts, published on October 8, refers to “asylum roulette” and notes that some judges have 1,000 pending cases. Some asylum cases involve women fleeing gender-based violence.

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