Understanding Domestic Violence – The Basic Facts and Figures

Domestic violence is one of the biggest issues facing – and affecting – women of all ages all over the world – including the US. Domestic violence occurs in every demographic – women of all ethnicities and at every income level are affected by it, as are their families, their friends, their careers and even ultimately their communities – and yet it is still a taboo subject that few very people like to talk about.

Here are some of the figures relating to domestic violence amongst the general female population in the US today. Hard to imagine that something so serious could be “swept under the carpet” so easily isn’t it?

  • On average the CDC estimates that in the US at least 3 women are murdered by their husbands, significant others or boyfriends every day.
  • 1 in 4 women living in the US reported having been the victim of IPV (intimate partner violence) on at least one occasion in their lives.
  • According to the CDC, over 300,000 pregnant women suffer domestic abuse at the hands of an intimate partner every year.
  • The rate of domestic violence is higher amongst women who fall into the low income category. studies conducted over the last decade have shown that women living in a household with an annual income of $25,000 or less are three times more likely to be the victims of domestic violence than women in a better financial position.
  • Victims of PPV are 80% more likely to have a stroke than non victims, 70% more likely to develop heart disease, 70% more likely to abuse alcohol and 60% more likely to suffer from asthma.

With the exception of a small study carried out in 1990 most of the research into domestic violence conducted over the last twenty years has failed to show only real difference in the rate of domestic abuse of women of Latin American birth or descent and that of the general female population. There are however a number of cultural factors that often mean that Latinas react and respond to IPV in a very different way to women of other ethnicities and so in fact do the people around them.

There have been a number of studies however that have been able to demonstrate that the levels of domestic violence within certain Latin American populations are higher than others. These studies have reported the highest levels of domestic violence affect women of Puerto Rican descent, followed by Mexicans and Cubans. The very highest levels of violence have been shown to be committed by US born (not immigrant) Puerto Rican and Mexican males.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence? 

Domestic violence is abuse that can be physical or verbal and it is most often a mixture of the two. Many abusers are very adept at convincing their victim, and their victims families, that the abuse is not serious or that it does not occur at all, that the abuse exists only in their victims’ imaginations. Upon hearing this continually even the most intelligent and well educated women will often become convinced that the abuse is indeed in some way their fault, that they must have done things to provoke it – as their attacker will usually suggest – and for this reason they do not seek help but look for ways to “change” themselves instead.

Domestic Violence and Latin American Immigrants 

There are special circumstances that can make it even harder for a woman of Latin American descent, especially if she as an immigrant to the US rather than a natural born citizen, to seek help if she is living in a violent situation. In fact one study showed that 48% of the 300 women surveyed reported that their partner’s violence against them had increased in frequency and severity since they had come to live in the United States.

Often if a woman is a new immigrant to the US she may not be very comfortable with the level of her English language skills and this is something that many abusers use to their advantage. To prevent too much communication with the world at large an abusive Latin American male will often go to great lengths to make sure that his partner does not get th chance to improve their English skills or get the chance to socialize outside of a small, Spanish speaking circle of family and friends. This kind of isolation is something most abusive males will use no matter what race they are but these language and cultural barriers can make it a far more effective weapon for Latin American men.

There are a number of excellent scholarly works that have been written about the cultural differences that exist within Latin American families that exist that impact domestic violence and you can find links to them in Resources section.