4. Research on domestic violence

The Belgian National Action plan 2004-2007 for fighting domestic violence intends compiling statistical research on the prevalence of domestic violence. In addition to compiling criminal statistics, data from the medical sector and counselling services will also be collected. At the beginning of the Belgian National Action Plan (Plan d’Action National) in 2004, for the first half year of 2004, the Belgian "Police criminelle" (criminal investigation police) recorded 4,861 cases of intentional bodily harm between partners in Belgium.

In 1998 Prof. Bruynooghe of the University of Limbourg conducted a study on marital violence. 68.1% of interviewed women stated that they had experienced physical and sexual violence. In 76% of the cases physical violence took place within the family and in 28% it had been perpetrated by the partner. One in seven women aged between 20 and 49 years (13.4%) and one of forty men (2.3%) had experienced severe bodily and sexual harm inflicted by the partner. Every 5th Belgian woman states having experienced at least one violent act through her partner.

In 2004 Prof. Müller and Dr. Schröttle from the University of Bielefeld, Germany compiled a representative study about violent experiences of women (Lebenssituation, Sicherheit und Gesundheit von Frauen in Deutschland). More than 10,000 women aged between 16 and 85 years were interviewed in 2003. They found that 37% of women have experienced physical violence, 13% sexual violence according to penal law, 58% sexual harassment and 42% psychological violence. Further, 23% of women stated having experienced physical violence in their partnership, 7% sexual violence and 25% physical or sexual violence. This data shows that every 2nd-3rd woman experiences physical violence in her adult life and every 7th sexual violence. Moreover, every 4th women aged between 16 and 58 experiences physical or sexual violence in her partnership. About 33% of those incidences can be described as battering relationships, meaning violence takes place repeatedly over a long period of time.

36% of interviewed women state, that they have experienced violence 2-10 times; about a third said that it had happened only once. In 64% of the cases the attacks induced physical injuries such as bruises, spraining, broken bones, open wounds and head and face injuries. Since less than 1% of interviewed women said that they were lesbian, no data aboutviolence in lesbian partnership could be raised.

An analysis of 10 separate domestic violence prevalence studies in UK shows, that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes (www.womensaid.org.uk/landing_page.asp?section=0001000100050007#common).

The Council of Europe has published a stocktaking study on domestic violence in opposite-sex couples. The extent of domestic violence has been studied within national health care systems and about 16 national studies have been commissioned to estimate the extent of domestic violence. Even its prevalence varies depending on the research methods, it can be stated that about one fifth to one quarter of women have experienced physical violence at least once in their adult life. Including all forms of violence, raises the percentage to 45%.

The preponderant majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are male, whereas the majority of the victims are female. Research which assumes that women’s share in domestic violence is much higher (Fiebert 1997, Archer 2000), has already been rebutted (Kimmel 2002). Moreover Kimmel assumes that “Fibert’s scholarly annotated bibliography thus turns out to be far more of an ideological polemic than a serious scholarly undertaking”. The fact that most perpetrators are male leads to the assumption that domestic violence is gender biased.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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