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Thirty Million Adults Claim to be Victims of Domestic Violence

By (BI) Susanna Daniel

ROCHESTER, N.Y.-- According to The Harris Poll, approximately 33 million or 15 percent of all U.S. adults, admit that they were a victim of domestic violence.

Furthermore, six in 10 adults claim that they know someone personally who has experienced domestic violence.

These are some of the results of a Harris Poll of 2,377 U.S. adults ages 18 and older surveyed online by Harris Interactive between April 11 and 17, 2006.

This survey was conceived by Harris Interactive and was not commissioned by any organization. However, we did seek and receive valuable input from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Who are the victims of domestic violence?

This survey attempts to gauge the magnitude of domestic violence. The term "domestic violence" refers to "physical harm (pushed, shoved, choked, hit, etc.), sexual harm and/or emotional harm (made fun of, yelled at, ignored, isolated, etc.) regularly occurring between spouses or dating partners."

Based on this definition, six in 10 (61 percent) adults claim that they know someone personally "who has ever experienced domestic violence."

A quarter (25 percent) of adults say that they didn't know anyone, while the remaining 15 percent say that they aren't sure or refuse to provide an answer.

-- Two-thirds (67 percent) of women say they know someone who has ever experienced domestic violence, compared to 21 percent who say they do not know anyone who has experienced it. The respective figures for men are lower (55 percent who know someone, 28 percent who don't know someone).

-- A quarter (24 percent) of those who say that they know someone personally who has experienced domestic violence say that the victim is themselves. This translates into 15 percent of the U.S. adult population, or approximately 33 million adults. Among women, this figure increases to 33 percent of women who know someone who has experienced domestic violence and 11 percent of men (22 percent of all women and 6 percent of all men).

-- Among those who know someone personally who is a victim of domestic violence, 45 percent say that the victim was a family member or a friend, an acquaintance (28 percent), a co-worker (22 percent), or someone else (10 percent).

Separately, among all adults, 39 percent say that they have experienced at least one of the following, with 54 percent saying that they haven't experienced any:
-- Called bad names (31 percent)
-- Pushing, slapping, choking or hitting (21 percent)
-- Public humiliation (19 percent)
-- Keeping away from friends or family (13 percent)
-- Threatening your family (10 percent)
-- Forcing you to have sexual intercourse without consent (9 percent)

Not surprisingly, these figures increase dramatically for the victims of domestic violence. Ninety-two percent of victims say that they have experienced one or more of these actions, with 95 percent of female victims and 81 percent of male victims saying this.

Actions taken

-- In a hypothetical situation, majorities of those who do not know anyone who has experienced domestic violence say that they would take a number of steps if a friend or family member claimed they were a victim of domestic violence. This includes talking to a family member (73 percent), talking to a friend (67 percent), calling the police (65 percent) or calling a domestic violence hotline (62 percent).

-- However, for those who know a victim, overall seven in 10 (72 percent) took some sort of action, while fewer numbers talked to a friend (34 percent), talked to a family member (30 percent), called the police (22 percent) or called a domestic violence hotline (5 percent).

The Harris Poll findings help draw attention to the fact that many acknowledge the seriousness of domestic violence and feel that resources need to be directed at helping victims of domestic violence.

At the same time, the survey highlights that many adults are willing to come forward and acknowledge that they have been a victim themselves.

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