September 8, 2008 – The Health Department today released a comprehensive report
chronicling the tragic and persistent problem of intimate partner violence. By
analyzing data from city hospitals, medical examiner records, and surveys by the
health and police departments, the agency found that this kind of abuse affects
thousands of women in New York City, with poor women and black and Hispanic
women suffering the highest rates. The complete report is available at www.nyc.gov/health.
Nearly half (44%) of all women murdered in New York City between 2003 and 2005 were killed by intimate partners, the report found. Partner violence also accounted for nearly 4,000 visits to hospital emergency departments in 2005 alone. While teens are less likely than adults to report abuse by a partner, the data suggest that violence begins at early age, with one in 10 public high school girls saying they’ve been assaulted in the past year.
“Every act of intimate partner violence is a crime and a tragedy,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “No woman should be threatened or abused, let alone in her home or by her partner. If someone is abusing you – or you’re worried about a friend or family member – please call 311 or 800-621-HOPE (621-4673). Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.”
“A significant amount of violent crime results from domestic disputes,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “The NYPD has increased our home visits to past victims of domestic violence by 130% since 2001. Specially trained officers stop by, talk to them, see how they’re doing, and make sure we don’t see a recurrence of the problem. As a result, we saw a 40% drop in domestic violence homicides in 2007, and a 32% decline in assaults. Victims of domestic murders tend not to have reported domestic violence previously. The police need to know about domestic violence to curtail it and to try to prevent it from escalating. Victims and the public at-large do themselves and society a great service by reporting domestic violence.”
“While this report shows that domestic violence continues to affect too many New Yorkers, we are encouraged by recent data that indicate a substantial decrease in overall domestic violence crimes,” said Yolanda B. Jimenez, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for victims to get the help they need. The cornerstone of this effort is our New York City Family Justice Center initiative, which streamlines access to vital domestic violence services.”
The report found that an increasing number of women have reported violent incidents to researchers and health care providers. Improved screening, better documentation, and increase disclosure by patients may help account for reported increases.
- New York City’s rate of fatal intimate partner
violence was 1.2 deaths per 100,000 women during the period covered by the
report (1999 to 2005). The rate was consistent with the national rate and
didn’t change significantly during the report period.
- Intimate partners commit at least a third of the
assaults for which women are hospitalized in New York City each year.
- Among women who are treated for assault but not
hospitalized, approximately one in five is a victim of intimate partner
violence. Such cases increased by 50% from 1999 to 2005 – from 66 to 96 per
100,000 women, according to medical records.
- Some 10.6% of public high school girls reported dating violence in 2005, up from 7.1% in 1999.
Who’s most at risk?
Women in their 20s were more likely than teens or older women to suffer injury or death at the hands of a partner (see table below), but the greatest disparities in intimate partner violence were among racial and ethnic groups. Black women were more than twice as likely as women in other race groups to killed or injured by partners.
Poverty is also a strong predictor of risk, with women living in low-income areas experiencing injury or death at twice the rate of women with higher incomes. In keeping with that pattern, the burden of intimate partner violence was greatest in low-income areas such as the South Bronx, North, South and Central Brooklyn and the Rockaways in Queens.
Punching and kicking were the most common forms of assault among women seen in emergency departments (50% and 71%, respectively), but most of those who died were shot or stabbed (66%). Most intimate partner violence, including 76% of fatal incidents, occurred in the home. Some 15% of the women killed had active orders of protection against partners, but most medical records lack information on whether victims have sought help from the police or the courts; contact with police was mentioned in only 23% of hospitalized cases.
Health concerns associated with intimate partner violence
Intimate partner violence is closely associated with other mental and physical health problems. Teenage girls who experienced dating violence also reported high rates of risky sex and attempted suicide. Among adult women, those who feared their partners were more likely to report binge drinking, risky sex and psychological distress, as well as asthma and diabetes.
“Women living with violence face health risks above and beyond their physical injuries,” said Catherine Stayton, director of the Health Department’s Injury Epidemiology Unit and lead author of the report. “The stress of this situation can lead to or worsen mental health issues and chronic disease. We encourage women to seek help and care – not only for abuse but also for other problems that threaten their well-being.”
How to get help
Victims can call the police (911), talk to any health care provider, and/or call the City’s Hotline at 311 or 800-621-HOPE (621-4673).
Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers should not take on the role of professional counselors, but they can help victims by:
- Talking and listening in a safe place, without
- Taking the victim’s concerns seriously.
- Encouraging her to seek help, and assisting in the
- Seeking out available community resources.
- Learning about safety plans and strategies. For
example, women who fear their partners should keep copies of critical
documents, in case they need to leave suddenly.
- Participating in community actions that raise awareness and help to prevent intimate partner violence.
More information on intimate partner violence is available in the new Health Bulletin, “How to Keep Yourself Safe,” at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/public/dohmhnews7-07.pdf.
City efforts to reduce violence
The City of New York is taking numerous steps to better identify intimate partner violence, ensure that women and families get the services they need, and reduce the incidence of these attacks.
The Health Department is:
- Screening all women who participate in home visiting
programs, and all women incarcerated on Rikers Island. Any woman reporting
intimate partner violence is referred to services.
- Developing an action kit on intimate partner violence
for health care providers. Health Department staff will visit hundreds of
providers in low-income neighborhoods to raise their awareness and help them
provide resources for patients.
- Launching a screening tool for use in electronic
health records at federally qualified community health centers and prenatal
- Hosting a MySpace campaign to encourage teenagers grappling with depression, drugs, and violence and to seek help. NYC Teen Mindspace is online at www.myspace.com/nycteen_mindspace.
The New York City Police Department is:
- Investigating domestic violence incidents, and
arresting suspected perpetrators. NYPD conducted more than 76,000 follow-up
home visits in 2007 to ensure the safety of victimized family members.
- Making referrals for medical care, legal advice,
social services, counseling support and temporary safe lodging for victims and
- Arranging security surveys of victims’ homes to develop safety plans and, if necessary, change locks.
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence is:
- Coordinating efforts to streamline services across
City agencies and service providers.
- Operating Family Justice Centers in Brooklyn and
Queens. The centers provide a wide range of services, including counseling and
civil legal assistance, to more than 1,500 domestic violence victims and their
families each month. A third site will open in the Bronx next year.
- Teaching young people about healthy relationships
through the New York City Healthy Relationship Training Academy. The program
teaches young people to recognize signs of an unhealthy relationship and
develop skills to build healthy ones.
- Reviewing domestic violence homicides to identify
risk factors and prevention strategies.
- Creating community assessments in the South Bronx and
Staten Island to identify factors leading to the cessation of domestic
- Building awareness through public education campaigns.
The complete report is available online at www.nyc.gov/health.