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Reporting of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault by Nonstrangers to the Police, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2005
41 pages
Using data from the National Violence Against Women Survey, this study examined the effects of gender and social relationship on police notification for physical and sexual assault, as well as the change of reporting patterns over time.
Research has found that violence, in general, is often unreported. Domestic violence and sexual assault in particular are incidences of violence hidden from society’s view and are typically not reported to the police. It is important to determine whether domestic violence and sexual assaults are less likely than other forms of violence to be reported to the police. Utilizing data from a sample of 6,291 physical assaults and 1,787 sexual assaults from the National Violence Against Women Survey for 1995 to 1996, this study, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice examined the effects of the gender of the victim and offender and their relationship to each other on whether sexual and physical assaults were reported to the police. In addition, it examined the reasons victims provided for not reporting assaults and if reporting patterns changed over time. Results from the study indicate: (1) victims were almost twice as likely to report incidents as third parties, but only about one out of four incidents were reported; (2) less than a quarter of the incidents involved a sexual assaults; (3) victims were less likely to have been assaulted by other family members than by partners, strangers, and other known offenders; (4) the most common reason victims gave for not reporting the assault was that it was too minor; and (5) two-thirds of the incidents occurred since 1980. In summation, theoretical discussions that emphasize inhibitions about reporting family members or barriers to women cannot explain the reporting patterns that are observed in this study. References

Date Published: March 1, 2005