The dark figures connected to domestic violence in the US

La xifra fosca de la violència domèstica als Estats UnitsIn May 2017, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the US Justice Department published the reportPolice Response to Domestic Violence, 2006-2015”, about the evolution of domestic violence and the police response to the problem. The data has been taken from the National Crime Victimization Survey(NCVS).

It must be stressed that the report conceptualizes domestic violence as those events which take place between a couple and in family relationships, whether they are serious or simple attacks, and includes acts against persons and against property. This situation cannot be compared with the Catalan case as here special attention is paid to violence involving the woman as a victim and a man as the aggressor, gender violence, unlike other types of violence, like in the home, social or community environment, for example.

During the 2006-2015 period, the annual average of cases of domestic violence in the United States was 1.3 million and the police have been aware of little more than half. According to the NCVS, 582,000 crimes were not reported to the police. Mortal victims are not included.

Victims present the following reasons for not reporting incidents: the aggression was a private matter (32%), protection of the aggressor (21%), perception of the aggression as minor or unimportant (20%), due to possible reprisals or others (19%) or mistrust of the police (8%).

Female-related crime displays the same frequency whether it involves minor (54%) or no injuries (55%).

In 64% of cases, the police appeared at the scene of the incident within 10 minutes of being informed. Almost all victims ascertained that the police were present within an hour of the event (94%).

The most frequent police action involved the drafting of reports of incidents (78%), interrogation (36%) and searching evidence (11%).

The detention of the aggressor occurs in 32% of serious female-related crime and in 44% of cases when the victim is a man. When there are no injuries involved, the percentage of arrest is 16% for both sexes.

48% of the victims and family members informed the police of the events and filed a penal charge against the aggressor. The most common were female-related crimes (21%), within the couple (52%) and involving serious violence (56%).

Police follow-up occurred in half of the cases in which violence was reported and a third of the crimes were not reported.

Almost all local police departments in the United States serving 250,000 inhabitants or more have a full-time unit specialising in domestic violence. These units are responsible for investigating the most serious cases of domestic violence, cooperating in the prevention of crime, providing victims with physical and psychological care, preparing police officers, offering protection regarding future crimes, making recommendations during the criminal judicial proceedings and providing assistance to secure repair, among other tasks.

Approximately 21% of crimes known to the police involving domestic crime were attended to by a victim-support unit.

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