A word about collecting statistics on domestic violence homicides of women.
We all know that battering and domestic violence homicides are a large
problem in our nation. In three months of 1997 the National Domestic
Violence Hot Line answered 91, 288 calls (282 per day), about 60% from
victims calling for information and help. So why would we want to spend more
time and effort measuring domestic violence?
Why measure domestic violence?
We use data and state and city comparisons to let everyone know how we are
doing, to give hope to the country by showing that success is possible, and
to encourage more states to take on significant projects that will reduce
their domestic homicide rates for women. We realize different programs work
in different cities. And we are eager to hear about new programs that are
working so we can publicize them to others. If we are going to reach our
goal of zero domestic homicides by 2020, we need everyone.
Concerns about data
What are the weaknesses in using data to track domestic homicides of women?
First, it is hard to know exactly how accurate the data are. These data
depend on police reporting homicides to the FBI. Each year more police
departments report but we do not know if all the sources report all of the
murders. Kansas, for instance, does not report to the FBI at all. The FBI
says that the data they collect is 92% accurate and one state just published
a report that showed an 80% accuracy for their state for 1995. We feel that
the down ward trends are more important than the exact numbers and if the
reporting is more accurate now and the trends are still downward, that is
Another concern is with what is reported. Some police departments may be
counting homicides/suicides by men as just suicides. We did a spot check of
several major cities (over 250,000) and found no one doing that now. Another
concern is not counting murders by xboyfriends as domestic homicides. While
this is a problem, one can include the acquaintance category in the FBI
reports and thereby include xboyfriends if so desired.
Weighing all of that, we chose to use only one statistic, representing a
definition of intimate partner violence, which we could compare across
states so at least the comparisons would be accurate. This is the definition
of intimate partner violence that the Department of Justice uses. That data
we collect represents the number of females eighteen and over murdered by
intimate partners (husband, xhusband, common-law husband, boyfriend, same
gender) per year in each state. By using that base line number consistently
across states the trend in domestic homicides of women is dropping and that
is our goal. And we chose to encourage the replication of the Results
projects because research on those individual projects shows success.
These statistics are the best, most data available on a consistent basis
across all states. We chose to rely on these statistics and on the trends.
But keep in mind, This is the first nationwide attempt within the domestic
violence movement to compile this data and we are bound to have some
inaccuracies, simply because this effort is so new. We ask everyone to bear
with us as we keep collecting and reporting the data. And we ask everyone to
get more involved in not only accurately compiling their own data but
finding activities and programs that drive these numbers down farther each
The goal of all that we do is to eliminate domestic homicides of women by
the year 2020.