Domestic Violence Costs, Causes and Statistics

The Hidden Crime That Costs This Country $67 Billion

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Definition: Domestic violence is physical abuse perpetrated by one household member onto another. It normally takes place in an ongoing relationship where one person uses it to gain control over another. It is committed against a child, spouse, intimate partner or elder. It includes assault, sexual abuse and stalking. These forms of violence are criminal. Emotional abuse, such as threats, ridicule and isolation, are not criminal but can lead to domestic violence.

A criminal act of domestic violence has usually escalated from emotional abuse.

There are immediate causes that trigger an episode. These include stress, provocation, economic hardship, desperation, jealousy or anger. The underlying cause is that the person feels violence works for them. They use it to solve their problems and exert control over others. They continue because no one has ever held them accountable for their behavior. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusers themselves. (Source: "Domestic Violence and Abuse," American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. "What Is Abuse?' "Fast Facts," The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney.)

Leaving the relationship doesn't always end the domestic violence. In fact, that can be the most dangerous time. One-third of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within a month and one-fifth within the first two days.

That's because the perpetrator feels a loss of control, and continues to stalk, harass, and threaten the victim after an escape. ("What Is Domestic Violence?" National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)


Each year, 10 million men and women suffer domestic violence. As a result, one-third of all women and 25 percent of all men have been victims at some point in their lives.

 ("Statistics," National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. That's more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Between 40 percent and 60 percent of the calls to police are domestic violence disputes. (Source: Carrillo, Roxann "Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development," Human Development Report, 1990. "Violence Against Women, A Majority Staff Report," Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 102nd Congress, October 1992, p.3.)

Nearly 20 percent of all violent crime is domestic, Twenty percent of domestic violence involve a weapon. The presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent. Almost 12,000 women are killed by a domestic violence each year. That's greater than the 6,500 troops killed in combat in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined. ("30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics," Huffington Post.)

Effect on the Economy

The total cost to the economy is $67 billion. That's after total pain, suffering and lost quality of life are included. (Source: Lawrence A. Greenfield et al., US Department of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends and Girlfriends, March 1998.)

Why are the costs so high? More than half of American cities cite domestic abuse as the top cause of homelessness. That's because nearly 40 percent of all domestic abuse victims become homeless at some point. More than a third of police time is spent responding to domestic abuse calls. Even in high-income communities, domestic abuse can be the No. 1 crime. (Source: Allstate Foundation, The Economics of Abuse.)

The cost to victims is $8.8 billion. The annual cost to victims of domestic abuse is about $8.8 billion, according to the National Institute of Justice. That's because health-related costs of domestic abuse exceed $5.8 billion annually, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. Even after five years after the abuse ended, health care costs for women with a history of domestic abuse remain 20 percent higher than those for women with no history of abuse.

The cost to businesses is $5 billion. Domestic abuse costs U.S. businesses between $3-$5 billion annually in lost time, productivity and health care costs paid for by the employer. 

Domestic abuse victims experience difficulty in the workplace, resulting in lost productivity and over 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year. For example, a wrongful death action against an employer who failed to respond to an employee’s risk of domestic abuse on the job cost the employer $850,000. (Source: Bureau of National Affairs, Violence and Stress: The Work/Family Connection, Washington, DC, August 1990. Special Report Number 23.)