Intimate partner, domestic, and sexual violence affect our society at an epidemic level. In their lifetime, an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced physical violence by a partner, and an estimated 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced some form of sexual violence.


Domestic and sexual violence include a variety of abusive behaviors, including physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. Domestic and sexual violence can occur in any type of relationship, including between spouses, intimate partners, dating partners, parents and children, siblings, extended family members, teachers and students, or caregivers and patients. Unfortunately, domestic and sexual violence can occur in any community and impact people of all ages, genders, religions, and sexual orientations.


Domestic and sexual violence remain seriously underreported crimes. Survivors continue to face obstacles, including shame, stigma, harassment, and disbelief or denial. Police and criminal justice responses to reported crimes can be inadequate, ineffective, and even harmful.


Domestic Violence – Over 10 million people experience abuse every year in the United States. Women ages 18-34 experience the highest rates of domestic violence. A weapon is used in 19% of domestic violence incidents. Firearms are a particular risk factor for domestic violence fatality: the presence of a gun in an abusive relationship raises the risk of homicide for a female victim by 500%. Domestic violence has serious impacts on a victim’s physical and mental health, with only 34% receiving medical care for abuse-related injuries. Victims are also at increased risk of depression and suicidal behavior.


Sexual Violence – 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime. People ages 12-34 are at the highest risk of sexual violence: Women ages 16-19 are four times more likely (than the general population) to experience sexual violence. Female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence, while non-student women 18-24 are four times more likely; male college students ages 18-24 are five times more likely to experience sexual violence than male non-students the same age. Fifty-five percent of sexual assaults occur in or near the victim’s home; 3 out of 4 perpetrators are known to the victim, most commonly a friend, acquaintance, person of trust or authority, or intimate partner. Rape and sexual assault have serious impacts on victim’s physical health, including the risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, as well as negative mental health outcomes. Ninety-four percent of victims experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and over one-third experience suicidal thoughts.


Other Violence – Other forms of intimate partner, domestic, and sexual abuse include stalking, elder abuse, and child abuse.


In 1994, the passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act signaled a major shift in governmental awareness and response to domestic and sexual violence. The Violence Against Women Act provides funding to states to support victim services, law enforcement, and other response and prevention efforts. The law also funds the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as well as local domestic and sexual violence coalitions, shelters, legal services, transitional housing, and more.


The Violence Against Women Act has been successfully reauthorized three times since 1994, most recently in 2013. Each reauthorization has come with improvements for reaching underserved populations, refining criminal justice responses, and recognizing the intersectional needs of victims and survivors of violence. Other federal programs, such as the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, have also been instrumental in responding to domestic and sexual violence and providing crucial services to victims and survivors.


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