Domestic Violence Reports to Police Exceed General Violent Crime-But 600,000 Unreported Each Year

Observations

1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence victimizations occur each year.

Police were notified of more than half (56%) of these victimizations.

Does increased reporting indicate an improved criminal justice response? The majority of police departments now have a domestic violence unit.

Author

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.

Article

My first domestic violence incident was as cadet riding with a Trooper in Maryland. Neighbors called, and a woman (obviously beaten) answered the door. She refused to press charges. We arrested her drunken husband when he assaulted us.

Per the report below, the victim or another household member signed a criminal complaint against the offender in about half (48%) of reported victimizations.

As a spokesperson for a federal parole and probation agency, I spoke to counselors at a domestic violence clinic who told me that many of the people there (mostly men) sincerely believed that they had the right to engage in domestic violence. They were confused when we told them that they didn’t have that right.

Domestic violence (and violence against women in general) is so profoundly ingrained in our society through movies and lyrics that it disturbs me to my core. The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice should be congratulated for a comprehensive, ten-year overview of domestic violence (below) and how law enforcement responds. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has always reported on domestic violence in their yearly reports.

What does bring me “some” comfort is the rate of reporting when compared to violent crime in general; females reported victimizations that involved a serious injury (54%) or no injury (55%) at a slightly lower rate than victimizations that resulted in a minor injury (62%).

This is compared to 47 percent of general violent victimizations that were reported to police in 2015.

Males reported a greater percentage of victimizations to police when a serious injury was involved (77%) than when there was a minor injury (57%) or no injury (49%).

When compared to reporting acts of general violence (everyday violent crimes) the numbers above exceeded those reported to police.

But there were an average of nearly 600,000 unreported nonfatal domestic violence victimizations each year between 2006 and 2015.

47% of Violent Victimizations Were Reported to Police

In 2015, 47% of violent victimizations were reported to police. A greater percentage of robberies (62%) and aggravated assaults (62%) were reported to police than simple assaults (42%) and rape or sexual assaults (32%).

The percentage of stranger violence reported to police (42%) was lower than the percentage of domestic violence (58%) and lower than intimate partner violence (54%) reported to police in 2015.

From 2014 to 2015, the percentage of total property victimizations reported to police decreased from 37% to 35%. The percentage of household burglaries reported to police also decreased from 60% in 2014 to 51% in 2015. The percentage of motor vehicle thefts reported to police decreased from 83% to 69% during the same period.

Other Findings

Seventy-six percent of domestic violence victims are female.

Fifty-one percent of victims had a prior incidence of domestic violence in the preceding six months.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the time, police responded to the scene within 10 minutes.

Police took a report at the scene more than three-quarters (78%) of the time.

When serious injury occurred and a criminal complaint was signed, the offender was arrested or charged 89% of the time.

About 9 in 10 local police departments serving 250,000 or more residents operated a full-time domestic violence unit.

However, while the rates of domestic violence reported often exceeded the rates of general violent crime reported, an estimated 61% of female victimizations involving a serious injury were not reported due to fear of reprisal. Regardless of the severity of the incident, female victimizations (24%) were four times as likely as male victimizations (6%) to go unreported due to fear of reprisal.

While the data indicates some confidence in law enforcement to report or respond quickly and take action, especially with serious injury and a complaint, the fact that 61% of female victimizations involving a serious injury were not reported due to fear of reprisal is disgusting.

New Report-Police Response to Domestic Violence, 2006-2015

Between 2006 and 2015, police were notified in more than half (56%) of the 1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence victimizations that occurred each year.

These victimizations were committed by intimate partners, immediate family members, or other relatives and included both serious violence (rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) and simple assaults.

Victimization reporting rates

Police were notified by the victim in about three-quarters (76%) of reported victimizations, and about a quarter (24%) of reports came from another person.

Reporting rates for victimizations were the same whether they involved serious violence or simple assault.

Victimizations were also reported at the same rates regardless of victim-offender relationship. Victim-offender relationship categories included intimate partner (spouse, former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) or another victim-offender relationship (parent, child, sibling, or other relative).

Females reported victimizations that involved a serious injury (54%) or no injury (55%) at a slightly lower rate than victimizations that resulted in a minor injury (62%).

Males reported a greater percentage of victimizations to police when a serious injury was involved (77%) than when there was a minor injury (57%) or no injury (49%).

Police response to reported victimizations

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the time, police responded to the scene within 10 minutes of being notified of a nonfatal domestic violence victimization. Police took a report at the scene more than three-quarters (78%) of the time.

During some initial responses, officers also questioned persons (36%), conducted searches (14%), or collected evidence (11%).

The victim or another household member signed a criminal complaint against the offender in about half (48%) of reported victimizations.

Police followed up 52% of the time when a victim or another household member signed a criminal complaint compared to 17% of the time when there was no signed complaint.

Follow-up actions included taking a report, questioning persons, conducting a search, collecting evidence, or making an arrest.

The offender was arrested or charged in 39% of reported victimizations, either during the initial response or during follow-up.

When serious injury occurred and a criminal complaint was signed, the offender was arrested or charged 89% of the time.

Unreported victimizations

There were an average of nearly 600,000 unreported nonfatal domestic violence victimizations each year between 2006 and 2015.

In about a third (32%) of unreported victimizations, victims cited the personal nature of the incident as a reason for not reporting it.

About a fifth of victimizations were not reported because the victim wanted to protect the offender (21%), felt the crime was minor or unimportant (20%), or feared reprisal from the offender or others (19%).

Domestic violence victimizations involving serious violence (31%) were more likely to go unreported due to fear of reprisal than victimizations involving simple assault (13%).

An estimated 61% of female victimizations involving a serious injury were not reported due to fear of reprisal. Regardless of the severity of the incident, female victimizations (24%) were four times as likely as male victimizations (6%) to go unreported due to fear of reprisal.

Sources

Bureau of Justice Statistics-Summary Report

Bureau of Justice Statistics-Full Report

Criminal Victimization-2015

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com.

Media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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