The National Crime Victimization Survey, which we mentioned earlier when discussing dating violence, is an annual survey conducted by the United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. The NCVS surveys a nationally representative sample of about 90,000 households comprising 160,000 individuals. In order to be interviewed, the subject must be 12 years of age or older, Each household is interviewed two times each year and asked a series of questions about crime victimization. The Bureau of Justice Statistics began carrying out the NCVS in 1972, but it was not until 1993 that the survey began asking specific questions about IPV.
The most recent data on IPV are for 2011 (Catalano, 2013). Among the major findings are:
- • The rate of serious intimate violence victimization (rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) for women was 5.9 victims per 1,000 females age 12 and older.
- • The rate of simple assault against women by intimate partners was 10.3 per 1,000 females aged 12 and older.
- • Of the violence against female victims, 8% involved some form of sexual violence, and 4% reported that they were shot at, stabbed, or hit with a weapon.
- • Half of the female victims reported suffering an injury in the previous year as a result of intimate partner violence.
There are two noteworthy comments about estimates of IPV. First, the rates of victimization are lower than the rates reported by other self-report surveys (see next section). Second, the rate of female victimization is considerably greater than the rate of reported male victimization (see Chapter 5). Many other studies find similar rates of female and male intimate partner victimization. One plausible and likely explanation for the anomalies in the NCVS data is that the NCVS introduces the study as a “crime victimization” study. Many respondents may not view IPV as a criminal act and thus, may choose not to report violence by an intimate partner.
A second self-report survey of intimate violence is the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Assault Survey carried out by the CDC (Black et al., 2011). The initial survey collected data in 2010 and reports the annual and lifetime extent of intimate violence and sexual assault. A nationally representative sample of adults 18 years of age or older (9,086 women and 7,421 men) was interviewed by telephone.
The study’s major findings are:
- • About 1 in 3 women (35.6%) experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- • About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) have experienced severe violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
- • An estimated 1 in 17 women (5.9%) experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking in the 12 months prior to responding to the survey.
- • Approximately 1 in 20 women (5.6%) experienced sexual violence victimization in the 12 months prior to the interview. About the same percentage experienced a physical assault in the year prior to the survey (6.3%).
- • About 4% of women were stalked in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- • Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) report being raped in their lifetime. Most of the female victims of rape (51.1%) were sexually assaulted by an intimate partner.
Of course, the CDC survey and the NCVS surveys are not directly comparable. As noted above, the NCVS survey focuses on crime, while the CDC survey does not present the questions in the context of being a crime victim.
There is some criticism of the CDC data on sexual assault. The criticism echoes concerns about advocacy statistics raised in Chapter 1. Christina Hoff Sommers (2014) believes the CDC study inflates the rates of rape by using a broader definition of “rape” than would be used in the criminal justice system. One of the
CDC survey questions used to assess rape was “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people had vaginal sex with you?”8 Sommers points out that more than half of the subjects (61.5%) who reported being sexually victimized experienced some form of alcohol- or drug- facilitated penetration. “Sexual violence” also included affirmative answers to questions such as “being pressured to have sex by someone telling you lies, making promises about the future that they knew were untrue.” Of note, this is not the first time such criticisms were raised in rape research. As noted earlier, Mary Koss and her colleagues (1985) employed the same questions in their study of campus assault.