Statistics of Abuse and Stalking in the United States at the Turn of the Millennium

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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Before we proceed to outline the psychological profile of the stalker, it is important to try and gauge the extent of the problem by quantifying its different manifestations. More plainly, studying the available statistics is both enlightening and useful.

Contrary to common opinion, by the turn of the millennium, there has been a marked decline in domestic violence in the last decade. Moreover, rates of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse in various societies and cultures – vary widely. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that abusive conduct is not inevitable and is only loosely connected to the prevalence of mental illness (which is stable across ethnic, social, cultural, national, and economic barriers).

There is no denying that the mental problems of some offenders do play a part – but it is smaller than we intuit. Cultural, social, and even historical factors are the decisive determinants of spousal abuse and domestic violence.

The United States

The National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS) reported 691,710 nonfatal violent victimisations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims during 2001. About 588,490, or 85% of intimate partner violence incidents, involved women. The offender in one fifth of the totality of crimes committed against women was an intimate partner – compared to only 3% of crimes committed against men.

Still, this type of offences against women declined by half between 1993 (1.1 million nonfatal cases) and 2001 (588,490) – from 9.8 to 5 per thousand women. Intimate partner violence against men also declined from 162,870 (1993) to 103,220 (2001) – from 1.6 to 0.9 per 1000 males. Overall, the incidence of such crimes dropped from 5.8 to 3.0 per thousand.

Even so, the price in lost lives was and remains high.

In the year 2000, 1247 women and 440 men were murdered by an intimate partner in the United States – compared to 1357 men and 1600 women in 1976 and around 1300 women in 1993.

This reveals an interesting and worrying trend:

The number overall intimate partner offences against women declined sharply – but not so the number of fatal incidents. These remained more or less the same since 1993!

The cumulative figures are even more chilling:

One in four to one in three women have been assaulted or raped at a given point in her lifetime (Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998).

The Mental Health Journal says:

"The precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons: it often goes unreported, even on surveys; there is no nationwide organisation that gathers information from local police departments about the number of substantiated reports and calls; and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence."

Using a different methodology (counting separately multiple incidents perpetrated on the same woman), a report titled "Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey", compiled by Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes for the National Institute of Justice and the Centres for Disease Control and published in 1998, came up with a figure of 5.9 million physical assaults against 1.5 million targets in the USA annually.

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According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, and Neil Websdale, Understanding Domestic Homicide, Northeastern University Press, 1999 – women in the process of separation or divorce were the targets of half of all intimate partner violent crimes. In Florida the figure is even higher (60%).

Hospital staff are ill-equipped and ill-trained to deal with this pandemic. Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States were put down to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is more like 50%.

Michael R. Rand in "Violence-related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments", published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 1997 pegs the real number at 37%. Spouses and ex-husbands were responsible for one in three murdered women in the USA.

Two million spouses (mostly women) are threatened with a deadly weapon annually, according to the US Department of Justice. One half of all American homes are affected by domestic violence at least once a year.

And the violence spills over.

One half of wife-batterers also regularly assault and abuse their children, according to M. Straus, R. Gelles, and C. Smith, "Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, 1990" and U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, A Nation's Shame: Fatal child abuse and neglect in the United States: Fifth report, Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 1995.

"Black females experienced domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experienced domestic violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 22 times the rate of men of other races."

[Rennison, M. and W. Welchans. Intimate Partner Violence. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. May 2000, NCJ 178247, Revised 7/14/00]

The young, the poor, minorities, divorced, separated, and singles were most likely to experience domestic violence and abuse.

From “Domestic Violence” by Martin R. Huecker and William Smock (StatPearls Publishing, June 2020):

“Family and domestic health violence are estimated to affect 10 million people in the United States every year ... In the United States, as many as one in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is thought to be underreported ... Approximate 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men 18 years of age or older experience domestic violence. Annually, domestic violence is responsible for over 1500 deaths in the United States.

Each year there are over 3 million referrals to child protective authorities. Despite often being the first to examine the victims, only about 10% of the referrals were from medical personnel. The fatality rate is approximately two deaths per 100,000 children. Women account for a little over half of the perpetrators.

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking are high, with intimate partner violence occurring in over 10 million people each year. Approximately one-third of women and one-fifth of men will be victims of abuse. Men represent as much as 15% of all cases of domestic partner violence. Male victims are also less likely to seek medical care so the incidence may be underreported.

One in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking during their lifetimes. The majority are stalked by someone they know. An intimate partner stalks about 6 in 10 female victims and 4 in 10 male victims.

At least 5 million acts of domestic violence occur annually to women aged 18 years and older, with over 3 million involving men. While most events are minor, for example grabbing, shoving, pushing, slapping, and hitting, serious and sometimes fatal injuries do occur. Approximately 1.5 million intimate partner female rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated annually, and approximately 800,000 male assaults occur. About 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. About 1% to 2% of men have experienced completed or attempted rape.

The incidence of intimate partner violence has declined by over 60%, from about ten victimizations per 1000 persons age 12 or older to approximately 4 per 1000.

Elderly abuse is thought to occur in 3% to 10% of the population of elders.

Elderly are often mistreated by their spouses, children, or relatives.

Elder domestic violence may be financial or physical. The elderly may be controlled financially.

Approximately 45 million children will be exposed to violence during childhood.


Approximately 10% of children are exposed to domestic violence annually, and 25% are exposed to at least 1 event during their childhood.


Ninety percent are direct eyewitnesses of violence.


Males who batter their wives batter the children 30% to 60% of the time.

Eighty to 90% of domestic violence victims abuse or neglect their children.

Abused teens may not report abuse. Individuals 12 to 19 years of age report only about one-third of crimes against them, compared with one-half in older age groups.

Domestic violence affects approximately 325,000 pregnant women each year. Abuse during pregnancy may cause as much as 10% of pregnant hospital admissions.

The average reported prevalence during pregnancy is approximately 30% emotional abuse, 15% physical abuse, and 8% sexual abuse.

Domestic violence occurs in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender couples, and the rates are thought to be similar to a heterosexual woman, approximately 25%. Same-sex partner abuse is common and may be difficult to identify. Over 35% of heterosexual woman, 40% of lesbians, 60% of bisexual woman experience domestic violence. For men, the incidence is slightly lower.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender victims may be reticent to report domestic violence.

Approximately 5% of males are killed by their intimate partners.

Each year, approximately 500,000 women are physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner compared to 100,000 men

Three out of 10 women at some point are stalked, physically assaulted, or raped by an intimate partner, compared to 1 out of every 10 men.

Continue ...


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