More than two-thirds of violent attacks against women in the United States were committed by someone the victim knew, substantially higher than the rate experienced by men, according to a Justice Department study released Sunday.
Moreover, the number of women attacked by spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, parents or their children is more than 10 times the rate against men, according to 400,000 interviews conducted for the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 1987 to 1991.
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said the findings “underscore the importance of forceful and effective action against the scourge of domestic violence.” She noted that the Senate-passed anti-crime bill would strengthen laws protecting women and expand federal grants to deal with the problem.
The National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense Fund called the study’s findings “atrocious but not surprising.”
“This country cannot continue to keep its biggest secret: Thousands of women in this country are not safe from their husbands or boyfriends. Congress must act and it must act immediately. We are in a state of emergency,” said Helen Neuborne, the organization’s executive director.
The survey found that in a typical year, 2.5 million of the nation’s 107 million women older than 11 were raped, robbed or assaulted, or suffered a threat or an attempt to commit such crimes.
Overall, women were significantly less likely to be victims of violent crime than men--40.5 victims per 1,000 men compared to 24.8 per 1,000 women--but the rate of violence against women has remained relatively constant since the Bureau of Justice Statistics began its annual victimization surveys in 1973, while violent crimes against men have decreased.
The higher incidence of violence by friends or relatives takes on particular significance because injuries were nearly twice as likely to occur if the offender was a husband or boyfriend than if the attacker was a stranger, according to the study.
This did not extend to rape, however, where female victims of strangers sustained more serious injuries than women raped by someone they knew.
The likelihood of violence was higher for young, black and Latino women, along with poor single women with little education who lived in inner cities, the national study said.
While black females were twice as likely to be robbed as white females, the differences in the rape and assault figures did not vary significantly by race.
The violence against women was largely intra-racial, with 80% of such crimes against whites committed by white offenders, and almost 90% of violence against black women caused by black offenders, the survey found.