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Why This Measure?

Domestic violence causes immediate physical and emotional pain, but its effects on families are much deeper and more wide-ranging than that. Just witnessing a parent’s abuse, whether or not they are abused themselves, leads to significant emotional, learning, and behavioral problems in children, including the increased likelihood of acting violently themselves. Abused women, in addition to the mental and physical health ramifications, face fear, economic insecurity, isolation, and even possible death, whether or not they leave the abuser. And despite the stereotypes, no group is immune to the effects of domestic violence. It crosses all age, race, cultural, and socioeconomic boundaries. And alcohol abuse is frequently linked to domestic violence.

Lead Indicators


Sources: Missoula Police Dept. & Missoula County Victim Assistance Program

Trend Unknown Data Rating Availablevvv Reliablevvv Relevantvv

How are we doing?

It is very hard to tell what the numbers mean when you’re talking about services provided to victims of domestic violence, for many reasons. Domestic violence is a crime that often goes unreported; best estimates are that only about 2/3 of domestic abuse situations are ever referred to the police. (HP 2000) So increased numbers of reports might actually be positive, meaning that battered spouses are perceiving more support for coming forward. But there is no evidence that domestic violence is decreasing.

National Prevalence

Most national studies of the prevalence of partner assaults suggest that roughly 25% to 30% of women will be assaulted at some point in their lives by partners or ex-partners. (National Resource Center on Domestic Violence 1994) In national crime data from 1987 through 1991, females experienced more than 10 times as many incidents of violence by intimates (husbands or boyfriends) than men did. Women were almost as likely to experience a violent victimization by an intimate or relative (33%) as by an acquaintance (35%) or a stranger (31%). Family-related violence accounted for 5% of all violent victimization against men.

Strangers tended to inflict less harm on women victims of assault than intimates did. Women were almost twice as likely to be injured if the offender was an intimate (59%) than if the offender was a stranger (27%). (National Crime Victimization Survey 1987-1991, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence)

Characteristics of Participants in Domestic Violence

From a recent study of 62 episodes of domestic violence:


  • 89% assaulted previously (35% on daily basis)
  • Nearly all called police on previous occasions
  • 78% had never sought medical care, counseling, or shelter
  • Children directly witnessed 85% of assaults


  • 92% used alcohol or other drugs on day of assault
  • 44% history of arrest for charges related to violence
  • 46% had been arrested for substance abuse

(JAMA 277(17)1997)


Why Victims Don't Leave

Domestic violence advocates see economic dependence, "no place else to go," lack of self-confidence, feeling somehow responsible for the abuse, assuming their situation is normal, and fear for their and their children’s lives as major explanations of why women remain in abusive relationships. The women themselves also cite loving or feeling sorry for the man, not believing in divorce, assuming the relationship will improve, fear of losing custody of the kids, and kids needing their father as reasons to return to an abusive spouse. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence)

See Missoula County Victim Assistance Program at Violent Crime.


Why Abusers Don't Stop

Partner assault is about power and control. Social conditioning, gender stereotypes, and a culture that condones violence are all more significant factors in domestic violence than the personal, interpersonal, or socioeconomic factors we tend to blame. The elimination of life problems such as stress, substance abuse, and unemployment does not effectively stop domestic abuse in a relationship. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence) It is also important to note that domestic violence generally is not just one isolated physical event. It is a pattern of behavior used against a spouse that can consist of all kinds of abusive actions — intimidation, name calling, attacks against property, isolation, threats, sexual attacks, physical assault. Whether or not the abuse is physically damaging, its intent is always to keep the upper hand in the relationship, and it is all psychologically damaging. (Prevention Connection, MDPHHS, Fall 1997)

Effects on Children

The majority of abused women who use shelter services bring children. In one study, 72% of the women brought children to the shelter; 21% were accompanied by three or more children. (Fact Sheet, National Woman Abuse Prevention Project) Children in abusive households are much more likely to be abused themselves. Whether or not they are actually hurt, they are more likely to have a host of behavioral and emotional problems. Nationwide, 85% of felons grew up in a home with domestic violence. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)

"Co-concurrence of Intimate Partner Violence Against Mothers & Abuse of Children" National Center for Injury Prevention & Control http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/fivpt/spotlite/power.htm



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