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Violence against Women and Girls.

THE PREVALENCE OF VIOLENCE IN WOMEN'S LIVES

Throughout the life cycle, women are subject to various forms of violence: child abuse, both physical and sexual; acquaintance rape and dating violence; battering and partner abuse; rape and sexual assault.

While the Justice Department reported that the overall violent crime rate was at its lowest in 25 years in 1997, violent crimes against women -- rape and sexual assault -- had not declined (Rand, 1998).

In 1994 alone, approximately 5 million women over the age of 12 were victims of violence -- including approximately 432,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 472,000 robberies, more than 940,000 aggravated assaults, and over 3 million simple assaults (Craven, 1997). There was one rape for every 270 women, one robbery for every 240 women, and one assault for every 29 women in 1994 (Craven, 1996).

And 4,489 women over the age of 12 were murdered in 1994 (Craven, 1997), representing 23 percent of all homicide victims; men committed nearly all of these murders of women (90 percent) (Craven, 1996).

Nearly a third of Americans (30 percent) report that they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year (Lieberman Research, Inc., 1996, as cited in Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1999).

Low income women, whose household incomes were less than $7,500, were more than twice as likely to be victimized (76.1 percent) than were higher income women, whose household incomes were $75,000 and higher - though nearly a third of high income women (29 percent) also were victims of violence in 1994 (Craven, 1997).

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, African American women (56 percent) and Latinas (52 percent) reported the highest rates of violent victimization among women -- followed by white women (42 percent) and Asian American and Native American women (36 percent each) (Craven, 1997).

Disabled girls and women face alarming rates of violence, including verbal abuse, economic and emotional abuse, physical and sexual violence, forced isolation, intimidation, abandonment and neglect, and the withholding of equipment, medication, transportation, or personal assistance services (Masuda, 1996, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999a). Disabled women also are more likely than non-disabled women of the same age to be victimized, to experience more prolonged and severe forms of violence, and to suffer more serious and chronic effects from that violence (Sobsey, 1994, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999a).

Older women are more likely than older men to suffer from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as financial exploitation, neglect, self-neglect and abandonment (National Center on Elder Abuse at the American Public Human Services Association, 1997a). In 1996, two thirds of the victims of elder abuse (67.3 percent) were women (National Center on Elder Abuse at the American Public Human Services Association, 1997b).

While women were 58 percent of the population age 60 and older in 1996, women were 76.3 percent of the victims of emotional/psychological abuse, 71.4 percent of those who suffered physical abuse, 63 percent of those victimized by financial/material exploitation, and 60 percent of those who suffered neglect (National Center on Elder Abuse at the American Human Services Association and Westat Inc., 1998).

Further, older women are most likely to be abused by men--who are 62.6 percent of the perpetrators of physical abuse, emotional abuse (60.1 percent) and financial/material exploitation (59 percent) (National Center on Elder Abuse at the American Human Services Association and Westat Inc., 1998).

Women who have been subjected to violence are prone to depression, post traumatic stress disorder, eating and sleeping disorders, substance abuse, hypertension, chronic pain or fatigue, and miscarriages (Shelley, 1995 as cited in United States Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, 1998).

RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

The Justice Department estimates that approximately 302,100 women are raped each year. However, the actual number of rape incidents is much higher, as some women are raped more than once. Therefore, the National Violence Against Women Survey estimates that approximately 876,100 rapes were perpetrated against women in the 12 months prior to the survey (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b). Three quarters of women (76 percent) who were raped and/or physically assaulted since the age of 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, or date (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b).

Married women (7.3 percent) are less likely than unmarried women (14.3 percent) to report that they were raped by their partners, perhaps because married women may be reluctant to report their husband's violence or to define a violent episode as a criminal act that should be reported to police (Craven, 1997).

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, Native American women (64.8 percent) are most likely to report rape and/or physical assault (defined as slapping, hitting, pushing, and threats with a gun or knife). But more than half of women in all other racial and ethnic groups also report such violence -- including 61.2 percent of women of mixed racial/ethnic heritage, 55.1 percent of African American women, 54.9 percent of Latinas, 54.5 percent of white women, and 51.9 percent of Asian American women (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b).

Regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class, women with disabilities are assaulted, raped and abused at a rate more than two times greater than non-disabled women (Sobsey, 1994 Cusitar, 1994; DisAbled Women's Network, 1988, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999a).

One third (33.2 percent) of the 1.5 million victims of workplace violence are women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. In fact, each year from 1992 to 1996 women experienced an average of 51,000 rapes or sexual assaults while at work (Warchol, 1998).

Rapes and sexual assaults frequently go unreported to law enforcement authorities; the National Crime Victimization Survey found that, while women reported 59 percent of aggravated assaults, they reported only 31 percent of rapes or sexual assaults to police (Rand, 1998).

Nearly one third of women who are raped (31 percent) develop Rape-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) at some point in their lives (Victim Services, 1997a). Further, over a quarter of women who suffer from bulimia (26.6 percent) were raped at some point in their lives (Danksy, 1997 as cited in National Center for Victims of Crime, 1998). And a study of medical patients found that women who had been raped regarded themselves as less healthy and visited physicians twice as often as women who had not been raped; they also incurred medical expenses that were twice as high as those for women who had not been raped (Schwartz, 1991, as cited in American Medical Association, 1996).

WOMAN ABUSE AND DOMESTIC/FAMILY VIOLENCE

The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that, in each year between 1992 and 1996, women and girls over the age of 12 experienced an average of 960,000 incidents of assault, rape and murder at the hands of a current or former spouse or intimate partner (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b). Other estimates suggest that six out of ten married couples experience violence in their marriages (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1993, as cited in Blue Shield of California, 1999).

Of the 1,800 murders by intimates in 1996, nearly three of four victims were women (Greenfeld, et al., 1998). Women are much more likely to be murdered by their husbands or boyfriends than men are to be murdered by their wives or girlfriends. In cases of homicide in which the victim-offender relationship was known, 26 percent of women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends while only three percent of men were killed by their wives or girlfriends (Craven, 1996). Homicide is by far the leading cause of death for women in the workplace; in 17 percent of these workplace murders, the alleged murderers were current or former husbands or boyfriends (U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, as cited in Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1998).

Many women experience violence for the first time during pregnancy; others report that battering escalates during pregnancy (McFarlane, et al., 1992, as cited in United States Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, 1998). According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), information collected in both public and private health care settings suggests that up to 20.1 percent of women experience violence during their pregnancies. In fact, women are more likely to experience violence during pregnancy than they are to experience such medical problems as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or placenta previa (Petersen, et al.,1998).

Despite increased public attention to family violence over the past 25 years and improved responses by authorities, women remain legitimately fearful of disclosing their victimization. Of the women respondents to a survey by The Commonwealth Fund who reported that they had experienced domestic violence, 61 percent had not told anyone of their abuse (The Commonwealth Fund, 1998). This may in large part explain data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) that show that only 2.7 percent of married women report violence by their husbands, compared with 23.1 percent of divorced women and 82.2 percent of women who are separated from their husbands (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995). Indeed, it is possible that the low reporting rate for married women to the NCVS reflects women's fear of answering these survey questions when their husbands might overhear.

Other data confirm higher rates of domestic violence. For example, 37 percent of women seeking emergency room care were there as a result of injuries inflicted by a current or former spouse or partner (Rand, 1997). Of the battered women who responded to The Commonwealth Fund survey, fewer than one in ten had revealed the source of their injuries to a physician (The Commonwealth Fund, 1998).

African American women are most likely to report violence by intimates. On average, each year between 1994 and 1996 about 12 per 1,000 African American women reported rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault by current and former spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends -- compared to about eight per 1,000 white women, seven per 1,000 Latinas and six per 1,000 Asian American women and Native American women (Greenfeld, et al., 1998).

Further, younger adult women (between 19 and 29 years of age) were most likely (21 percent) to report violence by intimates than were women in any other age group (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995).

Battered immigrant women may be threatened by their abusive partners when they contemplate reporting domestic violence. These threats may include the removal of her children from the United States, attempts to jeopardize her immigration status by refusing to file the necessary papers, and even the threat of being reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for deportation (Volpp, 1995 as cited in National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1999).

As with other incidents of violence, low income women are most likely to experience violence by an intimate. Women with household incomes of less than $10,000 (20 percent) were four times more likely to experience violence by an intimate than were women with household incomes of $50,000 or more (5 percent) (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995).

A 1997 survey of National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program member organizations found that violence between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender partners is not uncommon. Of the 3,327 cases of such violence reported in 1997, nearly half (48 percent) were reported by women (Broaddus and Merrill, 1998). In addition to lacking access to many services for battered women, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women also are denied certain legal protections. In seven states -- Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia -- the laws define eligible petitioners for domestic violence protection orders as members of opposite sex couples. Some form of domestic violence protection order is available in 40 states, but only four states -- Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio -- specifically declare that same sex couples are covered (Broaddus and Merrill, 1998).

The Colorado Department of Health estimates that at least 85 percent of women with disabilities are victims of domestic violence, compared to 25 to 50 percent of non-disabled women (Feuerstein, 1997, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999a). Even when disabled women are psychologically ready to leave a violent situation, they may be unable to do so without accessible services. When they do seek help, the lack of support systems -- such as accessible emergency transportation, sign language interpreters, and shelters -- creates additional barriers (Traustadottir, 1990, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999a).

According to one study, half (50 percent) of all homeless women and children are fleeing abuse (Zorza, 1991, as cited in National Coalition for the Homeless, 1999). With little affordable housing, long waiting lists for assisted housing, and the high demand for shelter space, nearly a third (32 percent) of women's requests for housing in shelters were denied in 1998 -- forcing women to choose between abuse at home and living on the streets (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1999).

More than half of battered women (56 percent) get to work late five times a month, three out of four are harassed by the batterer at work, and nearly half (44 percent) of battered women lost a job because of the abuse (Victim Services, 1997b). Battered women also are likely to experience reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, low morale, and numerous health problems as a result of the violence. They also face the very real fear that the violence will spill over into the workplace and put coworkers at risk (Lehraman, 1997).

In fact, an informal study conducted by the Polaroid Corporation found that domestic violence is linked not only to a decrease in the safety of battered women and a loss in their productivity, but also to company-wide workplace violence; over a three year period, half of the people who had committed acts of violence in the workplace also battered their spouses or partners at home (Speer, 1997).

In addition to reduced productivity and an unsafe work environment, violence in the workplace is estimated to cost American companies five billion dollars a year. Substantial numbers of corporate leaders (66 percent) are convinced that domestic violence affects their companies' bottom line (Victim Services, 1997b). According to one estimate, businesses lose 100 million dollars in lost wages, sick leave, absenteeism and reduced productivity (Meyer, 1992 as cited in Ramsey County Initiative for Violence-Free Families and Communities, 1998).

STALKING. (1)

Four out of five stalking victims (78 percent) are women and virtually are women who are stalked (94 percent) are stalked by a man (Violence Against Women Grants Office, 1998). Women report that they are followed and spied on and receive letters and phone calls from their stalkers. Stalkers also terrorize women by standing outside their homes, workplaces, and places of recreation (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

While women are three times more likely to be stalked than raped in a year's time, women are twice as likely to be physically assaulted than stalked (Violence Against Women Grants Office, 1998).

As with physical assault and rape, Native American women are more likely to report being stalked (17 percent) than are women of other racial/ethnic groups, including women of mixed racial heritage (10.6 percent), white women (8.2 percent), Latinas (7.6 percent), African American women (6.5 percent), and Asian American women (4.5 percent) (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

Women who have been abused by their partners also are likely to have been stalked by the same person; 81 percent of women who have been sexually assaulted also report being stalked and 31 percent of women who report that their partners sexually assaulted them also report that they were stalked (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

Although women are more likely to be stalked by a former partner once the relationship has ended (43 percent), many are stalked by a partner during the relationship (21 percent); 36 percent of women report being stalked both during the relationship and after it has ended (Violence Against Women Grants Office, 1998).

More than a quarter (26 percent) of stalking victims lost time from work as a result -- to attend court hearings, meet with mental health professionals, avoid the assailant, or consult with attorneys, for example (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 30 percent of women who report being stalked also report that stalking affected their mental well-being, prompting them to seek psychological counseling. They also experienced an increased fear for their personal safety and began to carry weapons to protect and defend themselves against an attack (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN

Sexual harassment in the schools, dating violence (both battery and rape), and sexual abuse by trusted adults all contribute to a culture of violence against women that affects girls throughout their youth and teenage years (Wolfe, 1994).

Girls are three times more likely than boys to experience sexual abuse; in fact, 75 percent of the 21,895 cases of child sexual abuse for which detailed case data were available in 1995 involved girls (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1997, as cited in Tucker and Wolfe, 1997).

Mistreatment directly contributed to, or was likely to have led to, disabilities for 62 percent of the girls who experienced sexual abuse, 48 percent of girls who experienced emotional abuse, and 55 percent of girls who experienced neglect (Crosse, Kaye, and Ratnofsky, 1993, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999b).

Girls with any kind of disability are almost twice as likely to be sexually abused as are non-disabled children (Petersilia 1998, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999b). The incidence of maltreatment among girls with disabilities was 1.7 times higher than for children without disabilities (Crosse, Kaye, and Ratnofsky, 1993, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999b). One study of abused children found that more than half (53.4 percent) of deaf girls had been sexually abused (Elder, 1993, as cited in Fiduccia and Wolfe, 1999b).

Of the girls in grades 9 through 12 who participated in a survey of 3,586 girls and 3,162 boys in grades 5 through 12 conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, 12 percent reported that they had been sexually abused and 17 percent reported physical abuse (Schoen, et al., 1997).

In 90 percent of the rapes of children under 12 years old, the child knew the offender (Greenfeld, 1997).

Girls are exposed to violence in their homes both as witnesses and targets of abuse. The Commonwealth Fund survey found that 25 percent of all girls said that they wanted to leave home at some point because of family violence, including 29 percent of high school girls (Schoen, et al., 1997).

Further, of the girls who reported abuse, 53 percent reported that the abuse took place at home, 65 percent said that the abuse occurred multiple times and 57 percent reported that a family member committed the abuse (Schoen, et al., 1997). And in 1995, 58 percent of juveniles who were arrested for running away were girls (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996, as cited in Phillips, 1998).

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 54 percent of women who reported an attempted or completed rape were under the age of 18 when the incident occurred (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b). Further, teen women 12 to 18 years of age were most likely (39 percent) to report violence by an acquaintance or friend (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995).

The National Violence Against Women Survey also found that women who reported being raped before the age of 18 were twice as likely (18 percent) to report being raped as adults, compared to women who did not report being raped before the age of 18 (9 percent) (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998b).

Girls between the ages of 12 and 19 experienced an increase in violent victimization at school in 1995 (3.3 percent) as compared to 1989 (2 percent); during the same period, the rate of violent victimization at school remained the same for boys (4.8 percent) (Chandler, et al., 1998).

In a study of adolescent dating that surveyed 635 high school students, 37 percent of young men and 36 percent of young women reported experiencing dating violence. However, young women were more likely to be punched and forced to engage in sexual activity while young men were more likely to be pinched, slapped, scratched and kicked (Molidor and Tolman, 1997). Over a third of the girls (36 percent) reported that they defended themselves against their partner as a reaction to their most serious incident of violence in a dating relationship; but more than half of the boys (53.8 percent) reported that they laughed and 31.8 percent reported that they ignored it (Molidor and Tolman, 1997).

Another survey found that girls who had been physically or sexually abused were more likely than girls who had not been abused to view violence as an acceptable alternative to continued victimization. For example, 46 percent of girls who had been physically abused, compared with 24 percent of girls who had not, were involved in one to five physical fights during the previous year (Tucker and Wolfe, 1997). And girls who had been sexually abused were twice as likely (14 percent) as girls who had not been abused (7 percent) to believe that it is acceptable to respond with violence "when someone hits you" (Tucker and Wolfe, 1997).

GENDER BIAS MOTIVATED HATE CRIME

Violence -- and the internalized and constant threat of violence -- is an instrument of control, compromising women's autonomy and freedom. Like violence based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, and sexual orientation -- many acts of violence against women are crimes against individuals that are meant to intimidate and terrorize the larger group or class of people -- women (Copeland and Wolfe, 1991).

While women often are victims of violence for the same reasons men are (robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft), women also are victims of violence simply because they are women. This continuum of hatred towards women is expressed in forms ranging from sexist language and verbal abuse to sexual harassment, rape, assault and battery, and murder (Copeland and Wolfe, 1991).

What makes many gender-based hate crimes different from hate crimes based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is the intimacy of the relationship. In the case of acquaintance rape as well as wife abuse, it is in the personal interaction and daily contact that male domination and gender bias -- expressed through violence -- coexist and survive (Copeland and Wolfe, 1991).

(1.) The Justice Department defines stalking as a "course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) of visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication, or verbal, written or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear" (Tjaden and Thoennes, 1998a).

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Author:Smooth, Wendy; Wolfe, Leslie R.
Publication:Violence Against Women and Girls: Research and Data in Brief
Article Type:Topic Overview
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Date:Oct 1, 1999
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