©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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No, this is not an Andy Rooney 60 minutes piece. However, "have you ever wondered" why we are constantly bombarded with dramaticly different numbers of women who are being beaten and battered by an intimate partner? Is it 188,000, 876,340, 1.3 million, 1.8 million, 4.8 million, 18 million, 27 million, or 60 million? I'm sure that I am not the only person who has wondered just what the heck is going on here? And, I didn't make these numbers up. These are real numbers presented to us by real people who expect us to believe them.

     The 188,000 and 1.8 million numbers are from the 1975 National Family Violence Survey, authored by Murray Straus and Richard Gelles and sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. They estimate that 84 percent of American families are not violent and that 16 percent do engage in some form of physical assault against each other. The 188,000 is the number of women who are injured severely enough to seek medical attention and the 1.8 million are women who suffer through severe violence such as kicking, punching, or using some type of a weapon.   
     The 876,340 number is by Callie Marie Rennison and Sarah Welchans from the Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Intimate Partner Violence of May 2000. They get their numbers from a study of the National Crime Victimization Survey of 1998. The survey estimates that about 1 million violent crimes were committed against people by their current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. About 85 percent of the victims were women and 15 percent men. It is worth noting here that often we read that male against female intimate partner violence is reported to be as high as 95 percent. That is a number offered by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCDV) and almost always used by women's rights groups. They claim that number comes from the U.S. Department of Justice, however, the Rennison and Welchans report is from the Department of Justice and they make no such claim.

     Both the 1.3 million and the 4.8 million both come from Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes in the findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey and their numbers vary depending on which of their two reports you read.   The Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, November 2000 reports the 1.3 million number. The 4.8 million is from the Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000.

     The 18 million number is attributed to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who estimate that annually more than one third of all married women are being battered. The 27 million is an estimate that more than half of all married women will experience violence during their marriage. These "numbers" are often repeated by domestic violence advocates and printed by the media, although it seems as if they may have pulled out of thin air. Rita Smith of NCDV when asked where these numbers came from stated that they were estimates based on what NCDV "hears" from battered women's shelters and others. I think we would all agree that this type of data collection lacks the validity of an empirical scientific study. However, they may at least be possible, as compared to the mythical number of 60 million number.

     A Miami talk show host, Pat Stevens, conjured up the 60 million number. Stevens appeared on CNN's "Crossfire" show and made the claim that all of the numbers concerning battered women are incorrect and in fact, Stevens claimed, when the real numbers are adjusted for underreporting, the true number for battered women is 60 million. No a single person on the show disputed Mr. Stevens. No one bothered to inform Mr. Stevens that his "guesstimate" is more than all of the women in the United States who are married or living with a man in some form of spousal relationship. I do admit that in all the years I have been involved with the issue of domestic violence, I never once heard anyone, not the most radical of women's rights advocates, anywhere, at any time repeat this inane claim. Never the less, it went undisputed on a respectable, nationally televised show.

     The real fact is, that numbers such as those presented by Stevens and those that appear to be pulled out of the air by the NCDV, in the long run hurt and not help the cause of battered women. How or why can we expect men to become involved with domestic violence when they are constantly being painted with a broad brush as demonic males who beat and bash women with impunity? And even more troublesome is the fact that most of those other numbers cited above, despite their radical differences, are numbers that can be substantiated. How can this be? Well, if you want to know, as I used to hear on radio-land as a young child, "Tune in next month."

Richard L. Davis, the author of "Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies", Praeger Publishers, Westport CT (1998), retired after 21 years of service with the Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department, he is a Domestic Violence Intervention and Programs consultant. rldavis@post.harvard.edu

Copyright © 2001 Richard L. Davis



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