Domestic Violence Statistics: A Comprehensive Investigation

Domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence, battering, or spouse abuse) is a pattern of abusive behavior used in a relationship to gain control and power over an intimate partner. It happens to everyone across race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, and sexual orientation. According to a report by the United Nations, more than 500,000 women were killed worldwide by an intimate partner or family member in 2017, something our Boulder criminal defense lawyers know all too well.

Domestic Violence Statistics

Every year in the United States, more than 10 million men and women become victims of domestic violence, and more women lose their lives to intimate partner violence than any other means. In the U.S. alone, more than 55 percent of murdered women are killed in relation to intimate partner violence, and nearly one million women have been shot by an intimate partner and have survived.

Incidents of domestic violence have shown a significant increase during COVID-19 – “a pandemic within a pandemic.”

How Often Does Domestic Violence Occur in the U.S.?

  • According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):
    • Every year, nearly 10 million women and men become victims of domestic violence.
    • Every minute, about 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • According to the CDC, more than one in three women (35.6 percent) and more than one in four men (28.5 percent) in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), intimate partner violence amounts to 15 percent of all violent crime.
  • According to the CDC, nearly half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lives (48.4 and 48.8 percent resp.).
  • According to the United Nations, over a quarter (27 percent) of women worldwide (ages 15-49 years) who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner).
  • Every year, an estimated 324,000 women are pregnant when they are subjected to violence by an intimate partner.
  • According to a 2014 report by American Progress: Between 2001 and 2012, more women in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner using a gun than U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

What Are the Reasons Behind Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a learned behavior by the abuser. After witnessing patterns of domestic violence from their families, friends, or societal influences, people may develop and repeat the same patterns over time. Remember that domestic violence is never the victim’s fault, no matter what. 

  • Men who witness intimate partner violence growing up are more likely to abuse their own partners.

In every instance of domestic violence, a person chooses to commit abusive acts, based on his or her belief system – when they can choose not to.

“We do what we know and we know what we see. That’s how we form everything. If I’ve grown up in a house where behaviors such as expressing anger by punching a wall or yelling or pointing your finger in someone’s face have been normalized – that’s my reality. That’s what I know. Sometimes there are cultural influences that are ingrained with patriarchy – like ‘man of the house.’ It’s tough because they are generalizations we have ingrained as a society,” explains John Sharp, who previously managed the Battering Intervention and Prevention Program at Hope’s Door New Beginning Center.

Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs (BIPP) are there to change existing belief systems, and people who have previously learned to abuse others can change their behaviors, but only if they have the desire to change and are committed to changing in all aspects.

What Traits Escalate Abuser Violence?

Escalation describes the process by which controlling behavior becomes more frequent, less disguised, more damaging, and closer to lethal over time.” It is when the abuse gets worse, either gradually or slowly – when the abuser escalates their power or control over you and you no longer can deny the gravity of the situation. As the National Domestic Violence Hotline wrote:

Over the course of an abusive relationship, it is common for abuse to escalate, and oftentimes survivors find themselves experiencing something they never thought their partner would, or even could, do.

It can help to know which traits or external factors can contribute to domestic violence or escalate the pattern or behavior of abuse. For example, people who are jealous and insecure often treat their romantic partners as property, talk down to them as if they are not equal partners, and do not give equal weight to their individual freedoms as much as their own.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the following factors can increase a person’s chances of becoming an abuser:

  • Low income
  • Low academic achievement
  • Young age
  • Aggressive behavior as a youth
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use
  • Depression
  • Anger and hostility
  • Prior history of being physically abusive
  • Few friends and isolation from other people
  • Unemployment
  • Emotional dependence and insecurity
  • Belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance)
  • The desire for power and control in relationships
  • Being a victim of child physical or psychological abuse

Where Does Domestic Violence Most Often Occur?

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), intimate partner violence increased by 42 percent from 2016 to 2018 and now makes up over 20 percent of all violent crime.  The likelihood of someone, male or female, becoming a victim is high, no matter where they live.  However, some states have larger issues with domestic violence than others.   According to the NCADV, 49.1 percent of women and 40.7 percent of men in Oklahoma will experience domestic violence at one point in their lifetime, the highest for either sex in any state.

Domestic Violence Rates by State

10 States with the Highest Rate of Domestic Violence Victimization


  1. Oklahoma – 49.1 percent
  2. Kentucky – 45.3 percent
  3. Nevada – 43.8 percent
  4. Alaska – 43.3 percent
  5. Arizona – 42.6 percent
  6. Indiana – 42.5 percent
  7. South Carolina – 42.3 percent
  8. Missouri – 41.8 percent
  9. Illinois – 41.5 percent
  10. Washington – 41.4 percent


  1. Oklahoma – 40.7 percent
  2. Idaho – 38.2 percent
  3. Tennessee – 36.8 percent
  4. West Virginia – 36.3 percent
  5. Oregon – 36.2 percent
  6. Kentucky – 35.5 percent
  7. New Hampshire – 35.4 percent
  8. Missouri – 35.2 percent
  9. Louisiana – 35.2 percent
  10. Texas – 34.9 percent

10 States with the Lowest Rate of Domestic Violence Victimization


  1. South Dakota – 27.8 percent
  2. North Dakota – 29.7 percent
  3. New York – 31.7 percent
  4. Rhode Island – 32.6 percent
  5. Idaho – 33.0 percent
  6. Utah – 33.6 percent
  7. Virginia – 33.6 percent
  8. Nebraska – 33.7 percent
  9. Minnesota – 33.9 percent
  10. Wyoming – 33.9 percent


  1. North Dakota  – 18.5 percent
  2. Utah – 21.4 percent
  3. South Dakota – 23.6 percent
  4. Hawaii – 24.1 percent
  5. Minnesota – 25.1 percent
  6. Rhode Island – 25.4 percent
  7. Michigan – 25.8 percent
  8. Illinois – 25.9 percent
  9. New Jersey – 27.4 percent
  10. Indiana – 27.9 percent

Domestic Violence Victimization – All States

State Percent Women Percent Men
Alabama 37.5 29.5
Alaska 43.3 30.2
Arizona 42.6 33.4
Arkansas 40.8 34.8
California 34.9 31.1
Colorado 36.8 30.5
Connecticut 37.7 33.9
Delaware 37.6 32.7
Florida 37.9 29.3
Georgia 37.4 30.4
Hawaii 34.7 24.1
Idaho 33 38.2
Illinois 41.5 25.9
Indiana 42.5 27.9
Iowa 35.3 29.3
Kansas 33.9 31.1
Kentucky 45.3 35.5
Louisiana 35.9 35.2
Maine 39.3 33.6
Maryland 34.4 28.8
Massachusetts 33.9 31.7
Michigan 36.1 25.8
Minnesota 33.9 25.1
Mississippi 39.7 31.7
Missouri 41.8 35.2
Montana 37.2 34.6
Nebraska 33.7 28
Nevada 43.8 32.8
New Hampshire 34.7 35.4
New Jersey 35.8 27.4
New Mexico 37.6 33.3
New York 31.7 29
North Carolina 35.2 30.3
North Dakota 29.7 18.5
Ohio 38 33
Oklahoma 49.1 40.7
Oregon 39.8 36.2
Pennsylvania 37.1 30.4
Rhode Island 32.6 25.4
South Carolina 42.3 29.2
South Dakota 27.8 23.6
Tennessee 39.6 36.8
Texas 40.1 34.9
Utah 33.6 21.4
Vermont 39.2 30.9
Virginia 33.6 28.6
Washington 41.4 31.7
West Virginia 39.4 36.3
Wisconsin 36.3 32.1
Wyoming 33.9 30.5

Who Are Most Often Victims of Domestic Violence?

While domestic violence happens to everyone, there are some factors that can increase the risk of being victimized. According to the APA, intimate partner violence victims are more likely to be:

  • Less-educated
  • An adolescent or young adult
  • Female
  • Living in a high-poverty neighborhood
  • Have a low income
  • Dependant on drugs or alcohol

Victimization and Age

Women are most likely to be in an abusive relationship in their twenties – specifically ages 18 to 34.

  • According to the BJS:
    • 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
    • From 1994 to 2010, about four in five victims of intimate partner violence were female.
  • According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
    • Women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
    • Nearly half of college women (43 percent) who are dating, report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, digital, verbal, or other controlling abuse.
    • Approximately one in three college women (29 percent) say they have experienced an abusive dating relationship.
    • 52 percent of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors, such as physical, sexual, digital, verbal, or other controlling abuse.
    • One in five college women has been verbally abused by a partner in a dating relationship.
    • One in six college women (16 percent) has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
    • 36 percent of college students admit to giving out their computer, email, or social media passwords to their dating partner; they are more likely to experience digital dating abuse.


In the U.S., domestic violence disproportionately affects ethnic minorities. Among ethnic minority groups, African American and Native American men and women are most likely to experience domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Rates by Ethnicity

According to the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:

  • About 43 percent of African American women, 46 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native women, and 53.8 percent in two multiracial non-Hispanic women have been the victim of intimate partner violence, rape, physical violence, or stalking in their lives.
    • These rates are 30 to 50 percent higher than those experienced by Hispanic, White non-Hispanic women and Asian or Pacific non-Hispanic women.
  • About 45.3 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native men, 38.6 percent of African American men, and 39.3 percent of multiracial non-Hispanic men in the U.S. reported experiencing intimate partner violence, rape, or stalking in their lives.
    • These rates are about twice the rate experienced by Hispanic and White non-Hispanic men (26.6% and 28.2%, respectively)

LGBTQ Community

Domestic violence occurs at the same rates, or at higher rates, in LGBT relationships than in heterosexual couples.

Domestic Violence Rates by Gender and Sexuality

According to the NCADV:

  • 43.8 percent of lesbian women and 61.1 percent of bisexual women have experienced intimate partner violence, rape, or stalking at some point in their lives, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women.
  • 26 percent of gay men and 37.3 percent of bisexual men have experienced intimate partner violence, rape, or stalking at some point in their lives, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men.

According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs:

  • People who identify as LGBTQ and are also African American are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to those who do not identify as African American.
  • Similarly, those who identify as LGBTQ and are Caucasian are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to those who do not identify as Caucasian.
  • People who identify as LGBTQ and are on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance.

Other Factors

  • Women with disabilities have a 40 percent greater risk of intimate partner violence, especially severe violence, than women without disabilities.
  • 40 percent of child abuse victims also report experiencing domestic violence.

Domestic Violence and Guns

The presence of a firearm in the home can turn an already dangerous domestic violence situation deadly.

Domestic Violence and Guns

According to a report by Everytown:

  • On average, 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month.
  • From 2008 to 2017, there were fewer intimate partner homicides of women involving weapons (excluding guns). Intimate partner homicides of women involving a gun, however, increased by 15 percent.
  • About 4.5 million women in the U.S. report that they were threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.

In a 2018 survey of victim calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Over one-third of callers reported that they were threatened with a gun.
  • Over three-fourths of those who experienced gun-violence threats reported that their partner also stalked them.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
  • Women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be killed with guns than women in other high-income countries.
  • Women in intimate relationships are more likely to be killed with a firearm than all other means combined.

Domestic Violence Increase During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of domestic violence spiked worldwide. During quarantine, when there is no option but to stay inside – an abuser is given more chances to control the victim. While domestic violence remains significantly underreported, the number of incidents reported to the police showed an increase during the pandemic.

According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, from March 2019 to March 2020:

  • The Portland Police Bureau reported a 22 percent increase in arrests related to domestic violence.
  • The San Antonio Police Department received an 18 percent increase in calls relating to family violence.
  • The Jefferson County Alabama, the Sheriff’s Office received a 27 percent increase in domestic violence calls.
  • The New York City Police Department had a 10 percent increase in domestic violence reports.

Why Victims Don’t Leave

A frequent question is: Why don’t victims of abuse leave their abusers? Why do they choose to stay in an abusive relationship? The truth is leaving isn’t always an option and victims typically face many safety and economic barriers when even considering leaving. For example, a controlling spouse could use child custody as a threat.

The most dangerous time for a victim is after she leaves her abuser. Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t a matter of courage, but it’s a matter of not wanting to die.

  • According to the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, 75 percent of homicides related to domestic violence occur after separation.
  • Leaving could also put loved ones at risk. According to a recent study on homicides linked to intimate partner violence, 20 percent of homicide victims were family members, friends, neighbors, people who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Victims

Every day, domestic violence affects individual families and the country as a whole.

  • Intimate partner violence results in significant costs for the victim over their lifetime as well as for the economy. According to the CDC and data from the U.S. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: In 2017, the average individual cost was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men. Overall, the economic cost was an estimated $3.6 trillion: $2.1 trillion (59 percent of total) in medical costs, $1.3 trillion (37 percent) in lost productivity among victims and abusers, $73 billion (2 percent) in criminal justice activities, and $62 billion (2 percent) in other costs, including victim property loss or damage.
  • 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men who experienced intimate partner violence, rape, or stalking reported significant impacts (short-term or long-term) including injuries or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the NCADV:

  • Victims of intimate partner violence lose 8 million days of paid work every year. This loss is equivalent to over 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • Up to 60 percent of victims lose their jobs in relation to domestic violence abuse.
  • Intimate partner violence costs the U.S. more than $8.3 billion every year.

Effect of Domestic Violence on Children

  • One study found that children exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely in general to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.
  • Children witnessed violence in about one in four intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts.

Early Warning Signs and Patterns

When many people think of domestic violence, they think of physical abuse, but the truth is domestic violence isn’t always visible to the eye. Domestic violence is anything that is done to gain power or control over an intimate partner, and it can include manipulation or threats through money, words, immigration status, child custody, or social media. Over half of all college students (57 percent) say it is difficult to identify dating abuse, and they are not alone.

Types of domestic violence can include:

  • Emotional and verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Technological abuse

While the progression of abuse and violence is gradual, there are behavioral signs, red flags, that show up in the early stages of the relationship that are easy to brush aside in the moment. Because we love them and we see the best in them. Or we believe this can’t be who they really are. We want to trust that the person we love would not hurt or harm us – and if they did, that it was a one-time occurrence and it won’t happen again.


In her TED talk on domestic violence, Leslie Morgan Steiner talks about how her abuser idolized her in the beginning, how he created the illusion that she was the dominant partner in the relationship. When he told her he left his dream job because of her and wanted to move out of the city – somewhere away from her family and his dysfunctional family, she didn’t perceive it as an attempt to isolate or control her, but as love. She willingly quit her dream job and moved with him because she thought love was about making sacrifices. While he wasn’t physically violent with her until days before her wedding, he was isolating her by taking her away from her family, friends, and career, and instilling fear in her when he purchased guns later on and kept them on him at all times. The first time he was physically violent with her was when she was frustrated about an assignment and he used her anger as an excuse to choke her.

What to Look for

An abuser may not be physically violent until much later in the relationship. This is why it is important to understand early signs of unhealthy relationships and to pay attention to how someone reacts to you when the situation isn’t going as planned for them – how they speak to you when they are angry or frustrated with you. Are they complimenting you in a back-handed way or making passive-aggressive comments or insults? Does their behavior change when you are alone or in public?

The beginning of a relationship is when both people are displaying the best versions of themselves. Therefore, if someone cuts off a driver or behaves impatiently and rudely with a waitress on your third date, and that makes you worried or uncomfortable, it means something; trust that feeling. If you are afraid, it is for a reason – because something about this person doesn’t feel right. While it may seem harsh to get out of a relationship because of something like that, the best time to leave is early on, before you are entangled in the relationship and the behavior escalates.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Are they reacting out of insecurity, jealousy, and anger, but masking it as love or protection? When you are running late, forget to pick up groceries, or talking to a male friend, are you afraid of how they will react, or what will happen if they find out? Do they make you feel like their anger is always your fault, your responsibility?

Remember that everyone deserves a respectful, healthy, and safe relationship and nothing ever justifies abuser violence. You can make a mistake, show up late, act imperfectly, and it still doesn’t give anyone the right to take out their anger on you in any form of violence.

Red Flags

According to the Domestic Violence National Hotline, even one or two of the following behaviors in a relationship could be red flags:

  • Possessiveness, extreme jealousy, and isolation – this can include restricting, discouraging, or preventing you from spending with your friends, family, or peers and away from him/her. This person is trying to consume all of your time.
  • Controlling your decision-making in work, school, or your personal or social life
  • Controlling your digital devices, or using technology to monitor, threaten, harass or hurt you; abusers use devices to track your whereabouts and will want passwords and access to your devices and social media accounts
  • Talking to you in a way that is demeaning, shaming, or disrespectful – alone or in public
  • Acting in one way when you’re alone and another way when you’re around people
  • Blaming you for everything that happens and not taking responsibility for his or her own behavior, feelings, or problems.
    • A huge red flag is if someone is making you believe that something you did caused them to hurt or mistreat you and that you deserved it, and you are having to comfort them after they hurt you or change your behavior out of fear
  • Telling you that you are never doing anything right and that it is always your fault
  • Controlling finances in the household and how much money you have access to
  • Intimidating or threatening you through words, actions, manipulation, or weapons
  • Pressuring you into sexual acts you are not comfortable with
  • Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Destroying your possessions

Stalking can also be a predictor of domestic violence.

  • One study found that 76 percent of intimate partner homicides and 85 percent of attempted homicides of women followed at least one incident of stalking in the year before the attack.
  • According to the NCADV: As many as 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. 60.8 percent of women and 43.5 percent of men reported that they were stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

Learning to Set Healthy Boundaries Early in the Relationship

It is important to understand that victims of domestic violence aren’t necessarily codependent, to begin with, but can become codependent as a result of the abuse. In a fact sheet on codependency, Mental Health America defines boundaries as the physical and emotional limits we set to protect ourselves from being manipulated, or used by others. Therapist Kristen Flow explains that boundaries have to do with what we need in order to feel safe and respected. Remember that you have every right to set clear boundaries for yourself, and you never have to explain or defend them.

  1. Begin by defining your boundaries for yourself.
    Ask yourself: What is okay with me and what is not okay with me? e.g. It is not okay for people to speak to me in a disrespectful way.
  2. Firmly communicate your boundaries with others; tell them what the boundary is and what you will do if it continues to be crossed. e.g. Please do not yell at me. If you continue to yell, I will leave the room.
  3. Once you have set the boundary, follow through with it and be consistent. 
    How we respond to others tells them what behavior we will tolerate from them. When we go back on our statement, it shows others that they can ignore our boundaries – and we will allow them to.

The third step is the most difficult, but also, the most important. The second someone crosses a boundary we have set early on in the relationship and we let it go instead of enforcing it, they learn that there are no consequences to their actions and they are likely to repeat that behavior. Abusers know they have gained power over someone when a person repeatedly forgives them and gives in to their demands – slowly relinquishing his or her own power.

Preventing Domestic Violence: Promoting Healthy Relationships

All forms of intimate partner violence are preventable – and the best pathway of prevention is teaching and promoting healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships, starting at a young age. It is important that kids understand and see what healthy relationships look like, are able to identify unhealthy signs of a relationship, and learn how to take themselves out of a bad situation or relationship, safely but assertively. It is important that children understand the difference between a loving, healthy, and safe relationship and an unhealthy one, so they are able to make choices that support their well-being. Children need to learn early on that controlling behaviors are not the same as love and protection; no one should make you feel afraid in the name of love.

We must have conversations with our children, teaching them:

  • How to properly regulate emotions and resolve problems without taking out your anger on someone or something else
  • How to treat everyone with respect and understand when you are being mistreated
    • Respecting other people’s physical, emotional and digital boundaries and ensuring our own boundaries are respected
    • Recognizing the first time our boundaries are violated is key, and ending the relationship before the behavior or abuse escalates
  • How to feel secure in yourself and in your relationships
  • How to take responsibility for our own decisions and not take the blame for someone else’s

If you have experienced domestic violence or have been recently charged with domestic violence, speak with a domestic violence attorney near you or with one of our Boulder domestic violence lawyers. Dolan + Zimmerman LLP is a team of local defense attorneys that draws on our years of experience to offer a client-focused approach to legal representation. To schedule a time to discuss your case, please call our office at 303-593-1874 or complete the online contact form.


Call: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

“Our advocates are available 24/7 to discuss your situation and identify available options to help ensure your safety.”

“Love is respect offers 24/7 information, support, and advocacy to young people between the ages of 13 and 26 who have questions or concerns about their romantic relationships. We also provide support to concerned friends and family members, teachers, counselors, and other service providers through the same free and confidential services via phone, text, and live chat.”

Call: 1-800-537-2238

Call: 1-312-726-7020, ext. 2011

Our mission is “to develop and promote accessible, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed responses to domestic violence and other lifetime trauma so that survivors and their children can access the resources that are essential to their safety and well-being.”