Domestic Violence Affects Families of All Racial, Ethnic, and Economic Backgrounds
It is a Widespread and Destructive Problem in Latino Communities

While domestic violence is a crime whose victims are largely women and children,
it is regarded as a substantial public health problem with multiple and serious
consequences and costs for entire families and communities, regardless of
ethnic, racial, or economic backgrounds


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Domestic Violence in the General Population

* Nearly 1 in 3 adult women experience physical assault by a partner during

* The rates of domestic violence are consistent across racial and ethnic groups.2

* The National Family Violence Survey suggested that rates of "abusive violence"
to women with annual incomes below $10,000 are more than 3.5 times those
found in households with incomes over $40,000.3 Domestic violence rates
are 5 times higher among families below poverty levels, and severe spousal
abuse is twice as likely to be committed by unemployed men as by those working
full time.4

* Women, ages 16 to 24, and women in families with incomes below $10,000 were
more likely than other women to be victims of violence by an intimate.5

* Approximately 324,000 women each year are abused by their intimate partner
during their pregnancy.6 A 1999 study from John Hopkins, showed that abused
women are more likely to give birth to low birth weight children, a risk factor for
neonatal and infant deaths.7

* Violence against women by intimates is chronic in nature. Of the women raped
by an intimate, 51.2% reported being victimized multiple times by the same
partner. It is estimated that 1.5 million women in the U.S. are raped and/or
physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually and that approximately
4.8 million intimate partner rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated against
women every year in this country.8

* Domestic Violence is a major cause of family homelessness. As many as half of
all women and children living on the streets became homeless because of
domestic violence.9

* Estimated direct medical and health care expenses from intimate partner
assault, rape, physical assault, and stalking exceed $5.8 billion each year. 10
Businesses forfeit another $100 million in lost wages, sick leave, absenteeism,
and non-productivity—about 25% of workplace problems can be attributed to
family violence.11

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

* The overlap between domestic violence and child abuse is well documented.
It is estimated that 40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children.12

* In 2001, approximately 930,000 children were found to be victims of child
maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological maltreatment, neglect,
and medical neglect). Of these 19% were physically abused; 10% sexually
abused; and 7% psychologically maltreated. The rest suffered neglect or medical
neglect. Approximately 1,300 died of abuse or neglect in 2001. 13

* Half of all children victims were White; 25% African American; 15% Hispanic;
2% American Indian/Alaska Natives; and 1% Asian/Pacific Islanders. Fifty-two
percent were female and 48% were male.

* Children who witness or experience violence in the home may suffer poor health,
low self-esteem, are at high risk of alcohol and drug use, sexual acting out,
running away from home, and suicide.14 Infants and toddlers show excessive
irritability, immature behavior, sleep disturbances, emotional distress, fear of being
alone, and regression in toileting and language.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Youth

* Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically
and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.15 One study found that 30% of
young women, (between the ages of 15-19) murdered each year, are killed by
their boyfriends or husbands.16

* Eight% of high school age girls said “yes” when asked if “a boyfriend or date
has ever forced sex against your will.”17

Domestic Violence in Latino Communities

* Accurate statistics regarding domestic violence in Latino communities are
difficult to obtain due to present day data collection methods and strategies.
National studies have produced conflicting results regarding the prevalence of
domestic violence in Latino populations. Whereas the second Family Violence
Survey,18 found higher levels of partner abuse in Latinos than in white
populations (23% vs. 15%), two other national studies19 found no difference
between Latino and white participants.

* What may be of more interest and relevance to researchers, practitioners,
and service providers than comparisons between Latino and other ethnic groups
are the differences that have been found within Latino populations. In a national
study, the highest rates of wife assault among Latino respondents were reported
for Puerto Ricans, followed by Mexicans, and then Cubans. U.S. born Puerto Rican
and Mexican men were at highest risk for using violence against their partners.20

* Smaller studies with Latinas suggest rates similar to those of the general
population. A survey conducted by the Immigrant Women’s Task Force of the
Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights revealed that 34% of Latinas
surveyed had experienced domestic violence either in their country of origin, in
the U.S. or in both.21 A study with migrant farm worker women found that
25%-35% of patients at migrant health centers reported having experienced
domestic violence within the previous 12 months.22

* Several factors, including discrimination and lack of bilingual/bicultural staff,
have led to an under utilization of shelters and other domestic violence services
by Latinas/os affected by domestic violence.23 One study of undocumented
immigrants found that for 64% of Latinas, a primary barrier to seeking help from
social service agencies is the fear of deportation.24

Understanding Domestic Violence in Latino Communities

* Domestic violence in Latino populations must be understood within the context
in which it happens. A legacy of multiple oppressions (some of which began
centuries ago) such as poverty, discrimination, racism, colonization, classism,
homophobia, etc. makes it imperative that domestic violence not be viewed as
a unidimensional phenomenon. This important social issue requires that research,
policy, advocacy and services be approached with an understanding of the
intersectionality of social forces that are at work in the occurrence of domestic
abuse in Latino families and communities.

* In addition, cultural factors such as a strong orientation toward family and
community must be central to interventions and programs that attempt to
address the problem in a culturally competent, effective, and respectful manner.
The most recent approaches to domestic violence research and intervention
strategies in Latino and other racial/ethnic communities are beginning to shift
their focus from the individual abused woman (or even the batterer or the couple)
to the community problem that affects, and is affected by, many elements in
the environment in which it occurs.

* Culturally specific batterer intervention programs for Latinos are being
developed within the context of a comprehensive family intervention approach.
These programs view domestic violence as a violation of human rights and a
social malaise that is allowed to take place in many families. The interventions
consider that, in a majority of cases, the abuse of men against women is a
behavior that many males have learned at home and in a society in which
violence is an accepted way of resolving differences.25

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1 American Psychological Association. (1996). Violence and the Family: Report of the American
Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family.   Back
2 Bureau of Justice Statistics (1995). Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ-154348.   Back
3 Straus, M. A., & Gelles, R. J. (Eds.) (1990). Physical Violence in American Families.
New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.   Back
4 Campbell, J., et.al. (2003). Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From
a Multisite Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7): 1089-1097.   Back
5 Rennison, C. M. & Welchans, S. (2000). Intimate Partner Violence, Special Report. Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.   Back
6 Gazmarian, J. A., Petersen, R., Spitz, A. M., Goodwin, M. M., Saltzman, L. E., & Marks, J. S. (2000).
Violence and Reproductive Health: Current knowledge and future research directions. Maternal and Child
Health Journal, 4(2): 79-84.   Back
7 Heise, L., Ellsberg, M. & Gottemoeller, M. (1999). Ending Violence Against Women. Population Reports,
Series L (11). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Population Information Program.
8 Tjaden, P., & Thoenes, N. (2000). Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence:
Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 181867.   Back
9 The United States Conference of Mayors. (1999). A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in
American Cities. 94. See also, Zorza, J. (1991). Woman Battering: A Major Cause of Homelessness.
Clearinghouse Review, 25(4):421.   Back
10 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2003). Costs of Intimate Partner Violence
Against Women in the United States. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Back
11 Meyer, (1994). Crime and Victimization Report. National Victim Center.   Back
12 American Psychological Association. (1996). Violence and the Family: Report of the American
Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. Washington, D.C.:
American Psychological Association. P. 80.   Back
13 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, National Child Abuse and Neglect
Data System, 2001.   Back
14 Jaffe, P. G. (1990). Children of Battered Women. Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry,
21.   Back
15 Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., & Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating Violence Against Adolescent
Girls and Associated Substance Abuse, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and
Suicidality. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286(5).   Back
16 Teen Relationship Abuse Fact Sheet, City of New York, March 1998.   Back
17 The Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. (1997). New York: The
Commonwealth Fund.   Back
18 Straus, M. A. & Smith, C. (1990). Violence in Hispanic families in the United States: Incidence
rates and structural interpretations. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.). Physical Violence in American
Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to violence in 8,145 families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction
Publishers, (pp. 341-367).   Back
19 Sorensen, S. B., & Telles, C. A. (1991). Self Reports of Spousal Violence in a Mexican-American
and non-Hispanic White Population. Violence and Victims, 3:3-15.   Back
20 Kaufman Kantor, J. L., & Aldarondo, E. (1994). Sociocultural Status and Incidence of Marital Violence in Hispanic Families. Violence and Victims, 9(3):207-222.   Back
21 CIRRS (1990), cited in D. Jang, D. Lee, & R. Morello-Rosch. (1991). Domestic violence in the
immigrant and refugee community: Responding to the needs of immigrant women. Response, 13(4), 2-7.   Back
22 Rodríguez, R. (1998). Clinical interventions with battered migrant farm worker women.
In J. C. Campbell (Ed.), Empowering Survivors of Abuse: Health Care for Battered Women and Their Children.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Pp. 271-279.   Back
23 Rivera, J. (1997-1998). Preliminary Report: Availability of Domestic Violence Services for Latina
Survivors in New York State, In the Public Interest, 16(1).   Back
24 Anderson, M. J. (1993). A License to Abuse: the Impact of Conditional Status on Female
Immigrants. Yale Law Journal, 102(6).   Back
25 Perilla, J. L. & Perez, F. (2002). A program for immigrant Latino men who batter within the context
of a comprehensive family intervention. In E. Aldarondo & F. Mederos (Eds.) Programs for Men Who Batter:
Intervention and Prevention Strategies in a Diverse Society, (pp. 11-1 – 11-31).   Back

©2004. National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. All Rights Reserved.

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