In 1979, psychologist Lenore Walker coined the term “battered woman syndrome,” or BWS, to describe the PTSD-like experiences of women who have endured violence at the hands of a husband or partner. Dr. Walker went on to found the Domestic Violence Institute and worked tirelessly on behalf of abused women worldwide.
Although much has changed in the decades since BWS was a novel defense, domestic violence continues. Who is most at risk for this type of abuse? Let’s look at the numbers.
A Few Facts to Understand
These days, the term “intimate partner violence” (IPV) is gaining acceptance as it more accurately depicts the diverse demographics of our society. While the majority of abuse is perpetrated by a man on a woman, some women abuse their male partners, and IPV also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships.
Additionally, violence isn’t restricted to romantic relationships. IPV can take the form of “dating violence” and can occur between people who used to date, were once married, or have one or more children in common.
Finally, “domestic violence” can manifest in elder abuse, child abuse, parent abuse, or other types of violence within family structures. IPV is a specific subset of DV.
Which Demographic Is Most At Risk?
When determining the ages of IPV victims, statisticians look at the first experience of IPV. Women aged 18-24 have the highest rates of IPV, coming in at 38.6%. Next, teen girls aged 11-17, with 22.4%. Women aged 24-35 are third, at 21.1%, while 35-44-year-old women account for 6.8%. Finally, the number dwindles even more, to 2.5%, for women age 45 or over.
For men, the most common age of first experiencing IPV is also 18-24, at 47.1%. Between ages 24 and 35, the percentage is 30.6%. Age 11-17 is 15.0%, age 35-44 is 10.3%, and age 45 and above, 5.5%.
An Unfortunate Consequence
Our understanding of dating and intimate partner violence is greater now than ever before, but unfortunately, the emphasis on victim services has led to an increase in false accusations of DV and IPV. Victims make false claims to get back at or hurt former partners or to gain a leg up in divorce settlements or custody arguments.