The abuse portrayed in the video that led to Ray Rice’s contract termination shows Rice striking his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, hitting her against an elevator wall, and dragging her out. The violent act has been widely condemned. It’s also all too common: More than 31 percent of women in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That troubling statistic comes from the agency’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released just last week. Researchers conducted more than 12,000 phone interviews in 2011, and also found that 19.3 percent of women (almost one in five) had been raped.
Intimate partner violence covers “physical, sexual or psychological harm” by a current or former partner, according to the CDC. In addition to experiencing physical abuse by a partner, an estimated 22.3 percent of women (and 14 percent of men) have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
Among the most common types of severe violence women experienced by intimate partners: being slammed against something and being hit with a fist or hard object.
The survey also captured forms of non-physical abuse, with nearly half of women in the United States having experienced at least one act of psychological aggression by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Psychological and emotional violence covers acts such as threats and coercion.
A 2003 CDC study funded by Congress found far-reaching impacts of such violence against women and zeroed in on the costs of such violence on everything from medical bills to lost time at work. Using survey data from 1995 — the same year 1,252 women were killed by an intimate partner — the CDC estimated physical abuse against a woman by an intimate partner results in 1.8 million injuries each year, with more than 500,000 of such injuries requiring medical care.
More than a quarter of such female abuse victims speak to a mental health professional. The survey also estimated 17.5 percent of women physically abused by their partners lost time from paid work.
Of course, all of these studies are the result of women actually telling researchers that they were abused. While the response rate for the 2011 survey wasn’t all that high (about 33 percent), CDC researchers conclude that the results likely underestimate how common such violence is in the United States.
“Victims who are involved in violent relationships or who have recently experienced severe forms of violence might be less likely to participate in surveys or might not be willing to disclose their experiences because of unresolved emotional trauma or concern for their safety,” researchers note.