Intimate Partner Violence Issues and Attitudes - Violence On Our Minds
domestic respondents women police
Americans are worried about violence and violent crimes. Surveys find that violent crime, violence in schools and among young people, and the depiction of violence in the media are all causes for concern.
A 2003 poll by the Center for the Advancement of Women found that 92% of women polled listed "reducing domestic violence and sexual assault" as a top priority for the women's movement ("Progress and Perils: New Agenda for Women," June 2003). An October 1998 Harris Poll found that 6% of respondents said they thought it was very likely they would be hit by a spouse or partner, an additional 8% felt it was somewhat likely, and 1% admitted that it had already happened to them. In view of the stigma associated with intimate partner violence and the reluctance to admit or disclose it, the finding that 15% of survey respondents thought it likely to occur or had occurred in their personal relationships was significant.
A poll by Harris Interactive published in the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003) compared survey responses given in 1994, 1999, and 2001 to questions about the factors Americans believe contribute to violence in U.S. society. Although the most frequently named causes remained constant through each survey year—in 2001, 86% cited "lack of adult supervision" and 60% said "easy availability of handguns"—the percentage of respondents attributing violence to these factors declined from 1994 to 2001. The biggest drop was in the proportion of persons blaming television news media for encouraging violence—from 39% in 1999 to 30% in 2001.
Men and Women View Domestic Violence Differently
A 1997 survey commissioned by Women's Work, a program of Liz Claiborne, Inc., and conducted by the public opinion research firm Roper Starch Worldwide, found that men and women define domestic violence and abusive behavior differently. Interviews with a random sample of 1,011 adults nationwide revealed that while men and women basically agree that acts and threats of physical violence are abusive, they disagree about the behaviors that constitute psychological abuse.
Controlling behaviors, such as dictating the clothes a woman must wear, was considered abusive by more than
half the female respondents, but only 33% of men said it was definitely abusive behavior. Less than one-quarter of males thought that withholding money from a wife or girlfriend was abusive, while 37% of women felt it was definitely abusive and 74% thought it probably was.
A greater proportion of women (78%) than men (67%) viewed enforced social isolation—preventing a woman from contact with family and friends—as abusive. Fully 85% of women and 75% of men thought that a man's cursing or insulting his partner in front of others constituted abuse.
About three-quarters of all survey respondents considered violence directed at women by their partners as among the major problems facing the country, and 21% thought it was a minor problem. Two percent said it was not a problem at all. More women (85%) felt domestic violence was a major problem than men (69%).
More than half of all respondents reported that they knew someone directly involved in intimate partner violence, as either a victim or perpetrator. Slightly more women (59%) than men (54%) said they knew someone involved in an abusive relationship. Nearly one-third of respondents knew that about one out of four women is affected by domestic violence, but 37% admitted that they did not know enough about the problem to estimate how frequently it occurs.
The State of Florida Weighs in on Domestic Violence
In June 1999 the Florida Department of Corrections surveyed state residents about how they felt about domestic violence. Survey respondents were representative of the Florida population and ranged in age from eighteen to eighty-nine years—the average age of respondents was 45.5 years. The survey was composed of approximately 40% men and 60% women.
More than nine out of ten Floridians thought domestic violence is a widespread problem in society, and a large majority (78.6%) felt that their state had seen an increase in the number of incidents of domestic violence during the past decade. Only 6% felt the number of incidents of domestic violence had dropped. (See Figure 10.1 and Figure 10.2.) Official statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement supported public perceptions—reported domestic violence crime had increased by 9%—
|Opinion poll on percentage of physically abusive men, June 1999|
|WHAT PERCENTAGE OF MEN DO YOU THINK HAVE EVER PHYSICALLY ABUSED THEIR WIVES OR GIRLFRIENDS?|
|Percentage of men who have abused wives or girlfriends||Number||Percent|
|*Cases not applicable = 99|
|SOURCE: "Question 2: What Percentage of Men Do You Think Have Ever Physically Abused Their Wives or Girlfriends?" in Florida's Perspective on Domestic Violence, Florida Department of Corrections, 1999, http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/domestic/ (accessed October 24, 2004)|
and the Florida Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence confirmed that only about one-seventh of all domestic assaults are reported to police.
On average, survey respondents said they believed that nearly 40% of men have physically abused an intimate partner at some point in their lives. (See Table 10.1.) Female respondents (42.5%) were more likely than male respondents (32.9%) to believe that men abused their intimate partners.
More than half the respondents (55.5%) knew at least one victim of domestic violence. Nearly 43% of those respondents said the victim was a friend and more than one-quarter said an immediate family member had been a victim of domestic violence. More than one in three respondents (43.7%) reported that they had actually witnessed a man physically abusing his wife or girlfriend. (See Figure 10.3.)
The survey respondents were asked what they believed caused domestic violence. The most frequently cited causes were women's reluctance to leave their abusers (89.8%), partners' inability to communicate and resolve differences (79.4%), drug and alcohol problems (78.4%), and the economic reality that many women are forced to choose between poverty and remaining with their abusers (76.7%). Respondents also thought that many men learned violent behavior in their homes during childhood and adolescence (73.1%), and they believed that the breakdown of the traditional family unit contributed to violence (67.6%).
Almost 65% of those surveyed said the courts did little to protect battered women, and 21.9% said they felt domestic violence exists because police didn't do enough
to stop it. (See Table 10.2.) More than eight out of ten respondents wanted police to arrest persons suspected of partner violence, and more than 85% want to see offenders who caused serious bodily harm to their victims imprisoned. (See Table 10.3.) More than three-quarters believed that abusers should be both punished and forced to receive treatment; less than 8% felt that punishment without treatment was sufficient.
To compare how survey participants viewed domestic violence in comparison to violence in the community, researchers asked respondents how a man who had beaten up his wife at home should be punished and how a man who had beaten up another man in a bar should be punished. Overall, the respondents did not believe these violent acts should be punished differently. Almost 70% favored imprisoning a man who assaulted a woman at home, and 74% would jail a man who assaulted another man in a bar.
Most respondents said that not enough taxpayer money was being spent on preventing and treating intimate partner violence and enforcing laws against it. Eight out of ten of the respondents would support a tax increase to pay for more counseling for victims. Nearly three-quarters would agree to a tax increase to fund more shelters for victims, and more than two-thirds of respondents were willing to spend more tax dollars to treat offenders.
|Opinion poll on the causes of domestic violence, June 1999|
|*Those who neither agreed nor disagreed were not used to calculate valid percentages.|
|SOURCE: "Question 8: Causes of Domestic Violence," in Florida's Perspective on Domestic Violence, Florida Department of Corrections, 1999, http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/domestic/ (accessed October 24, 2004)|
|Domestic violence continues because most women will not leave the men who abuse them.||89.8%||10.2%|
|Domestic violence is the result of a couple's inability to communicate and resolve conflicts.||79.4%||20.6%|
|Drug and alcohol problems are the primary cause of domestic violence.||78.4%||21.6%|
|Many women have to choose between living on their own and being poor or staying in the home where they are being battered.||76.7%||23.2%|
|Most men learn to be violent because they were beaten or witness edviolence in their home when they were growing up.||73.1%||26.9%|
|Domestic violence is caused by the breakdown of the traditional family.||67.6%||32.4%|
|The court system does very little to protect abused women.||64.9%||35.1%|
|Domestic violence is a result of unequal relationships between men and women.||54.3%||45.7%|
|Domestic violence exists because police won't stop it.||21.9%||77.1%|
|It's none of my business if a husband physically abuses his wife during anargument inside their own home.||14.8%||85.2%|
The respondents believed the most effective strategies for reducing domestic violence were counseling for victims, public education, treatment for abusers, and placing restraining orders on convicted offenders. More female respondents (73.9%) than males (51.8%) thought treatment of abusers would be very effective. Similarly, 80.8% of women favored counseling for victims, compared to 58.8% of men.
When they were questioned about their willingness to help victims of intimate partner violence, nine out of ten respondents said they would call the police if they heard an assault occurring next door. Nearly all the woman surveyed (94.5%) said they would telephone police and 87.9% of men indicated they would contact police. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority (93%) said they would testify in court about an assault they had seen.
Survey respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the 1997 legislation that made it illegal for a person convicted of domestic violence to own a firearm. Most respondents (89%) agreed with the law, with women expressing more support than men (92.9% and 79.4%, respectively). Furthermore, nine out of ten respondents said neither law enforcement officers nor military personnel should be exempt from the legislation prohibiting convicts or subjects of an injunction from possessing a firearm.
Only 40% of respondents were aware of batterer intervention programs and less than 8% said they knew of
|Opinion polls on police intervention in domestic violence cases/imprisonment of serious offenders, June 1999|
|WHEN THE POLICE HAVE BEEN CALLED TO A HOME, DO YOU THINK AN ARREST SHOULD BE MADE WHEN THE POLICE SUSPECT THAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HAS OCCURRED?|
|Arrest if police suspect domestic violence?||Number||Percent|
|*Cases not applicable = 19|
|SOURCE: "Question 10: When the Police Have Been Called to a Home, Do You Think an Arrest Should Be Made when the Police Suspect that Domestic Violence has Occurred?" and "Question 11: Do You Think Imprisonment is the Appropriate Punishment for Domestic Violence Incidents Involving Serious Bodily Injury?" in Florida's Perspective on Domestic Violence, Florida Department of Corrections, 1999, http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/domestic/ (accessed October 24, 2004)|
|*Cases not applicable = 42|
|More than 8 in 10 Floridians (86.3%) believe that an arrest should be made when the police suspect domestic violence has occurred. More women (90.3%) believed that an arrest should be made when the police suspect domestic violence has occurred, compared to men (80.1%).|
|DO YOU THINK IMPRISONMENT IS THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENTS INVOLVING SERIOUS BODILY INJURIES?|
|Is imprisonment the appropriate punishment?||Number||Percent|
a man involved in one of the programs. Nonetheless, a full 91.8% of those surveyed felt that it should be mandatory for all men charged with domestic violence to attend batterer intervention programs.
The majority of survey respondents thought more public attention would help victims of domestic violence. Figure 10.4 shows that 56.7% of the respondents believed the media had not directed enough attention to domestic violence issues.
How Do Women Feel about Mandatory Reporting of Domestic Violence?
There is considerable controversy about mandatory reporting requirements among health care professionals, patients, and advocates for domestic violence prevention. From 1991 to 1994 California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Kentucky passed laws requiring health professionals to report cases of intimate partner violence to the police. Proponents of mandatory reporting claim it increases identification and prosecution of abusers and improves data collection. Critics feel it compromises victims' autonomy, may increase the risk of further violence by perpetrators, and endangers patient-practitioner trust and confidentiality.
Michael Rodriguez et al., in "Mandatory Reporting of Domestic Violence Injuries to the Police: What Do Emergency Department Patients Think?" (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 286, no. 5, August 1, 2001), examine how female patients seen in emergency departments viewed mandatory reporting of domestic violence injuries to police. The investigators surveyed 1,218 female patients in twelve hospital emergency departments in California, where reporting is mandatory, and Pennsylvania, where there is no law requiring reporting of domestic violence cases. Twelve percent of the patients (140 women) reported physical or sexual abuse within the year preceding the study by a current or former intimate partner.
To determine patients' views about the mandatory reporting law, female nurses asked the patients, "Do you think the emergency department staff in hospitals should be required to call the police when they think that a husband, boyfriend, or partner (ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, ex-partner) has hurt or abused an adult patient?" Respondents could choose one of three answers: yes, every time; every time unless the patient objects; and never.
Rodriguez et al. found that more than half (55.7%) of the recently victimized female respondents supported mandatory reporting of intimate partner violence to police, while 36.4% thought physicians should report only with patient consent. About 44% of abused women opposed mandatory reporting. The women who opposed mandatory reporting tended to be younger and nonwhite.
Of the women with no prior history of abuse, 70.7% favored mandatory reporting and 29.3% opposed it. Women who were primarily non-English speaking were more likely to oppose mandatory reporting, perhaps because their experiences with police were different from the experiences of U.S.-born women or because they feared deportation.
There were no differences between the opinions expressed by women in California and those in Pennsylvania. Similarly, opposition to reporting did not vary by relationship status or income.
Rodriguez et al. conceded that one of the limitations of their study was that it very likely did not obtain the opinions of women who failed to seek care in California because they knew of the mandatory reporting requirement and did not wish to have their perpetrators identified. If abused women were choosing not to seek emergency department care because of reporting requirements, then this study may have underestimated the extent to which abused women would oppose laws that mandate reports to police.