Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Services and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States: A County-Level Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Services and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States: A County-Level Analysis

Article excerpt

Despite the prevalence of intimate partner violence and its social costs, we show that many counties lack services to help victims and that community resources play a significant role in determining the likelihood of service provision. Because resources are often generated at the local level and state and federal funding usually require a grant proposal, services for victims of intimate partner violence are more likely to be available in well-resourced areas with a major college or university in the county. Analysis of the changes in the provision of services since the Violence Against Women Act was introduced suggests that funding needs to be specifically targeted to under served areas.

Key Words: intimate partner violence, services, shelters, VAWA.

Intimate partner violence is undoubtedly a serious problem. The most recent, nationally representative survey of the prevalence of intimate partner violence, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice, indicated that almost 25% of women and nearly 8% of men reported being physically assaulted, raped, or stalked by an intimate partner in their lifetime, with 1.5 million women and 1 million men reporting such abuse annually (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). In an effort to protect confidentiality, the 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women's Health used telephone surveys and found the percentage of women experiencing abuse within their lifetime to be 31% (see Collins et al., 1999).

Although the victims of intimate partner violence undoubtedly bear the majority of its costs-physical, emotional, psychological, and financial-society incurs significant costs as well. As summarized in a U.S. General Accounting Office (1998) report, studies indicate that a large proportion of women on public welfare, between 55% and 65%, report having been abused by an intimate partner in the past. Clearly, the costs of providing government support to these women and their children are significant. In addition, the annual health-care costs for victims of intimate partner violence are estimated to be twice those of nonvictims, and mental health costs are up to eight times higher (Golding, 1999; Wisner, Gilmer, Saltzman, & Zink, 1999). Using data from the Health Care Financing Administration (now named the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), Reeves (2001) estimates that the annual cost to society from intimate partner violence in terms of health care alone is approximately $10 billion; this figure does not take into account the mental health-care costs of children who witness the violence. Such violence poses a serious cost to the criminal justice system; in addition, there are costs to businesses in terms of reduced productivity, turnover, and absenteeism. A Canadian study estimates that country loses $1.6 billion per year from intimate partner violence, and U.S. researchers find the losses to be between $10 and $67 billion (see Hartmann, Laurence, Spalter-Roth, & Zuckerman, 1997). Although no study adequately accounts for all the costs, intimate partner violence is a significant criminal justice concern, a pervasive public health problem, a problem facing our nation's businesses, and an issue that will require the involvement of both government and private organizations if it is to be addressed over the long term.

The federal government has responded with legislation designed to reduce the incidence of intimate partner violence and meet the needs of its victims. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 and renewed in 2000. Under VAWA 2000, Congress appropriated $3.3 billion over 5 years to combat domestic abuse. Although these funds have a number of potential uses, the provision of public services to assist victims is an important one. Given that VAWA, the first and only federal legislation to specifically address intimate partner violence, is less than a decade old, many social services dedicated to helping victims initially developed out of grassroots efforts. …

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