Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fun Facts about Domestic Violence

Welmer points to a 2007 study on domestic violence by CDC researcher Daniel Whitaker, published in the Journal of Public Health. Here are the results:

Weighted Estimates of Violence Occurrence for Reciprocally and Nonreciprocally Violent Relationships
VariableOverall %Men %Women %
All relationships
- Nonviolent76.180.771.6
- Violent23.919.328.4
Among violent relationships
- Reciprocal49.746.951.5
- Nonreciprocal50.353.148.5
Among cases with nonreciprocal IPV
- Perpetrated by men29.325.132.3
- Perpetrated by women70.774.967.7

A couple of thoughts on this. First, I will happily betray my middle-class innocence by saying that 23.9% sounds like an awfully high number of heterosexual relationships in which violence occurs. But note that the survey questions (“How often in the past year have you threatened your partner with violence, pushed or shoved him/her, or thrown something at him/her that could hurt,” and “How often in the past year have you slapped, hit, or kicked your partner”) include both threats of violence and attempts at violence in the same category as, you know, actual violence. (Though one could argue that the willingness of respondents to characterize mere threats and attempts as "violence" is a measure of their psychological impact.)

The study gives us an idea of the prevalence of actual violence by asking about injury. Again the results:

Weighted Estimates of Injury Occurrence by Reciprocity Status and Perpetrator Gender
VariableInjury occurrency (%)
- Nonreciprocal11.6
- Reciprocal28.4
Perpetrator gender
- Men against women28.8
- Women against men18.1
Gender by reciprocity
- Men against women: nonreciprocal20.0
- Men against women: reciprocal31.4
- Women against men: nonreciprocal8.1
- Women against men: reciprocal25.3

Note that "injury" as used herein refers to a "sprain, bruise, or cut" and, presumably, anything worse. This, I submit, is a minimum threshold for what constitutes actual "domestic violence" as opposed to simple boorishness.

My second thought is: wow, women inflict 70% of the non-reciprocal domestic violence on men! But let's limit our consideration to violence causing injury. Looking at the non-reciprocal violence numbers, my back of the envelope calculation is that (.293)(.2)/[(.293)(.2) + (.707)(.081)] = 51% of non-reciprocal, injury-producing domestic violence is perpetrated by men, leaving the other 49% to be perpetrated by women.

But what about reciprocal violence, i.e. men and women deciding to have at it together? Waving aside, for the moment, whether this constitutes as morally deserving a category as non-reciprocal violence, we see that 31.4% of women in reciprocally violent relationships suffered injury, while only 25.3% of men in reciprocally violent relatonships suffered injury. (Keep in mind that, as the violence was reciprocal, these categories are not mutually exclusive -- no doubt some relationships included injuries to both the man and the woman.)

Looking at the raw numbers, we can combine the categories and see that of the injuries sustained in domestic violence, 55% were suffered by women while only 45% were suffered by men. This isn't as dramatic as the 70% mentioned above, but does illustrate that the popular notion that domestic violence is suffered exclusively by women appears to be a misconception.

A few caveats. First, the study only considers heterosexual couples ages 18 - 28. Second, while the study did include a racially representative sample, racial correlations were evidently not part of the study. (The original data can be downloaded here, I think.)

Finally, the study has only one injury category. It doesn't break out separately those DV victims receiving "the full Rhianna", i.e. victims suffering injuries of sufficient severity to merit either professional medical and/or law enforcement attention.

Still. This study provides a lot of nuance on the question of who perpetrates domestic violence.


Elusive Wapiti said...

A good post. You did quite a bit more analysis of the data than when I posted on it a couple of years ago.

"...include both threats of violence and attempts at violence in the same category as, you know, actual violence"

Indeed, "violence" is defined down by the DV community, the better to get more funding and attention for their cause.

"First, the study only considers heterosexual couples ages 18 - 28"

Here's more nuance for ya. Lesbian couples have a higher rate of IPV than hetero ones.

Trumwill said...

I know from teevee that a perpetrator of domestic violence is typically a white, middle class male with an outwardly warm affection for her that progressively seems creepy as bruises start appearing.