Intimate Violence Hurts Health
CDC: 1 in 4 Women, 1 in 9 Men Suffer Intimate-Partner Violence
Feb. 7, 2008 -- In America, one in four women and one in nine men suffers physical or
emotional violence at the hands of an intimate partner. This harms their
long-term health, the CDC reports.
The new data come from the largest-ever survey of intimate-partner violence
-- a range of behaviors that includes physical violence, sexual violence,
unwanted sex, emotional abuse, threats, and stalking. Perpetrators include
spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and dates.
CDC researchers asked adult participants in the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor
Surveillance System survey if they would answer questions about
intimate-partner violence. More than 70,000 Americans -- just over half
those asked -- agreed.
- 23.6% of women and 11.5% of men reported at least one lifetime episode of
- In households with incomes under $15,000 per year, 35.5% of women and 20.7%
of men suffered violence from an intimate partner.
- 43% of women and 26% of men in multiracial non-Hispanic households suffered
- 39% of women and 18.6% of men in American Indian/Alaska Native households
suffered partner violence.
- 26.8% of women and 15.5% of men in white non-Hispanic households suffered
- 29.2% of women and 23.3% of men in black non-Hispanic households suffered
- 20.5% of women and 15.5% of men in Hispanic households suffered partner
"The majority of those who report violence -- and the burden is
predominantly on women -- reported multiple forms. They experienced threats and
attempts and assaults and unwanted sex," Michele Black, PhD, an
epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control,
Shocking as these numbers seem, they do not represent an upward trend. A
decade ago, the last large survey of partner violence came up with similar
rates, Black says. Other data bear this out, says Peter Sherman, MD, director
of the residency program in social pediatrics at New York's Montefiore Medical
"If anything, the rates for domestic violence have been decreasing in the past
years," Sherman tells WebMD. "Laws have been changed to make it easier
to get a response from police, and in many areas there are more resources
ranging from domestic violence services to hotlines and shelters."
So why are we surprised by how common domestic violence is? Sherman says
it's because the size of the problem is far out of proportion to our
"If this were an infectious disease, we would have a treatment center in
every neighborhood," Sherman says. "There is a huge disconnect between
the prevalence of domestic violence and what is done in the health
Intimate Violence Linked to Long-Term Health Problems
Intimate-partner violence is definitely linked to chronic health problems,
"We found a number of outcomes related to intimate-partner violence,
including current disability and activity limitations, asthma, stroke, arthritis, and, in women, heart disease," Black tells WebMD. "And a number
of risk behaviors are linked to intimate-partner violence: infection with HIV
or STDs, smoking, and heavy or binge drinking."