Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Self-Reports of Violent Victimization among U.S. Adults

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Self-Reports of Violent Victimization among U.S. Adults

Article excerpt

This article describes the prevalence of violent victimization and injuries among U.S. adults and examines how these estimates differ by individual- and household-level characteristics using the second nationally representative Injury Control and Risk Survey (ICARIS-2). The ICARIS-2 was administered to 9,684 adults using a computer assisted random-digit-dial telephone survey. These data suggest that 5.4% of the U.S. adult population, approximately 11.66 million people, experienced at least one violent victimization in the past 12 months. Most victims (57%) believed that the person who struck them intended to injure them, and one in three victims reported that they were physically injured on at least one occasion. Effective violence prevention strategies require the collection of valid data to understand the scope of the problem, the consequences, and the groups most impacted. The results from ICARIS-2 indicate that the prevalence of violent victimization in the United States far exceeds the estimates derived from crime surveys.

Keywords: injury; intimate partner violence; perceived intent; survey methods

Physically violent behaviors range from shoving, punching, kicking, and choking to assaults with weapons, sexual violence and homicide. These behaviors have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the U.S. population. In 2005, more than 18,100 Americans were victims of homicide and approximately 1.6 million people were treated in emergency departments for physical injuries that resulted from assaults (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2003). In addition to the physical consequences from violence, victims, witnesses, and family members often experience immeasurable negative psychological, behavioral, and social consequences, including depression, substance abuse, and fearfulness (Ruback & Thompson, 2001). Furthermore, seemingly minor acts of violence can be precursors to more severe acts of violence. For instance, female victims of intimate partner violence often report that their partner?fs use of physical violence became more frequent or severe over time (Frye, Manganello, Campbell, Walton-Moss, & Wilt, 2006). Therefore, it is important for violence prevention efforts to focus not only on incidents of violence that are part of official statistics because they result in a homicide or injury treated in an emergency department but also the incidents of violence that occur far more often in daily life.

Efforts to quantify the true prevalence of nonfatal violent victimization in the United States are hindered by several issues. Official data sources, such as law enforcement data and medical records, provide useful data on the characteristics of the events that are brought to the attention of professionals. However, self-report data suggest that most incidents of violence are not reported to these sources. For example, the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, routinely collects data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households for the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Among respondents to the NCVS who reported being injured in a violent crime, only 19% were treated in an emergency department or the hospital, and only 56% indicated that they or anyone else reported the incident to police (Simon, Mercy, & Perkins, 2001). Overall, 41% of injured victims were neither treated in a hospital or emergency department nor reported to law enforcement and would therefore be missing from both sources of data.

The NCVS is important for understanding the trends in criminal victimization, the groups at greatest risk, and the proportion of incidents that are reported to the police. However, past research suggests that many acts of physical violence, particularly acts perpetrated by intimate partners or family members, are not considered "crimes" by the victims and therefore are not reported in a survey conducted within a crime context, like the NCVS. …

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