Underreported Cases of Domestic Violence: A Survey
Department of Psychology, Saint Leo University
PSY-530: Research Methods I
Dr. Lara Ault
July 1, 2022
The purpose of this study is to determine a relationship between age, attitudes, gender, family structure, and experience (whether indirect or direct experience) of domestic violence among the U.S. population to better comprehend why individuals may or may not report domestic violence cases. The goal of this study is to understand why domestic violence is still largely underreported in today’s society.
Underreported Cases of Domestic Violence: A Survey
Domestic violence, otherwise known as “dating violence,” “domestic abuse,” or “intimate partner violence,” is a common phenomenon that plagues every nation across the globe and can affect both males and females of various ages. According to NCADV (2021), “…1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner,” (p. 1). Countries around the world have brought awareness to combat domestic violence by establishing support groups, conducting multiple therapy avenues, creating stricter legal repercussions, etc. For example, an increased number of organizations in the United States (such as New Hope) have been created for domestic violence victims where individuals can learn more about the subject, donate, spread awareness. etc. The national public hotline number in the United States is 1-800-799-7233 for victims of domestic abuse. Despite some of these new improvements and the gradual increase of awareness- domestic violence is still prominent, underreported, and a troubling factor in present-day society.
Domestic abuse is defined as, “…a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner,” (United Nations, n.d., para. 1). The types of domestic abuse can range from emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. Unfortunately, women between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to experience abuse from their partner, compared to other age groups and their male counterparts (NCDAV, 2021). Domestic violence can have serious negative consequences that can lead to lifelong problems- whether that is physically, emotionally, and/or socially. Some examples of negative consequences include: the direct physical results of the domestically violent incident, emotional withdrawal, Post- traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and even death (World Health Organization, 2021).
Some individuals seek mental health services if they fall victim to domestic violence, but the majority may not due to various reasons. Of those whom have experienced domestic violence- it is estimated that around 70% do not report it (Sahota et al., 2020). Of those that are reported- the majority are from a third party source. An example of a study that was conducted by Shariati and Guerette (2022) found significant findings in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic violence cases from 11,052 police reports in the New Orleans, Louisiana region. The study served two purposes: to examine any changes in volume and geographic dispersion of domestic violence patterns during COVID-19 and to investigate socio-economic variables that may contribute to these patterns. Some of the variables included the following: diversity, average household size, minority populations, education, income, and total crime index (Shariati & Guerrette, 2022).
The results indicated three significant findings that pertain to the purpose of the current research. The results demonstrated that the areas where domestic violence was already present had an increase of cases, but not the areas where it was not often present – did not significantly increase (Shariati & Guerrette, 2022). In addition, the areas where domestic abuse was more common were in predominantly minority populations and it was largely reported by third party sources (Shariati & Guerrette, 2022). It is important to note that larger household size was negatively correlated with domestic abuse suggesting that if there are more family members – there will be less likelihood of domestic abuse.
As previously mentioned, there is still the estimated majority (70%) of individuals who do not report domestic abuse. The results above indicated that of those who actually report- majority comes from third parties. There are a multitude of reasons as to why one may not report. Some of the factors that have been claimed to be associated with underreporting can be personal and/or societal. The British Columbia Legal Society created a list for survivors’ “help-seeking behaviors” that include some of the following concerns: they believe the abuse will end, victim depends on abuser financially, fear, embarrassment, unaware of the proper avenues of help, etc. (Sahota et al., 2020). It is important to note that individuals may also not trust others it terms of serious situations such as domestic abuse. Domestic abuse has changed overtime; however, the general attitudes and beliefs are still mixed. The National Crime Victimization Survey has found that it is a complex decision-making process driven by self-protection and seriousness (Gover et al., 2011). Understanding the mindset of domestic violence victims and/or those who have witnessed some type domestic abuse has been a challenge for psychoeducational research as well as other fields. Some contributing factors that should continue to be explored in research involving domestic violence are of the following: age, attitudes, gender, family structure, and experience.
The goal of reducing the prevalence of domestic abuse can be accomplished by reviewing by reviewing the subject of domestic violence from different angles. One angle that has been addressed is on the professional services side for victims. For example, a cross-sectional survey design study was conducted by Nyame and colleagues (2013) to address undetected cases of mental health service users by clinicians in regards to domestic violence. The researchers wanted to assess mental health professionals’ knowledge, attitudes, and preparedness of responding to domestic violence, in the United Kingdom. The researchers collected data using “The Physician Readiness to Measure Intimate Partner Violence Survey” (Nyame et al., 2013). They received 131 responses from psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses.
Their key findings included that 60% of the professionals lacked the knowledge of support services for their clients and 27% felt that their workplace did not have proper referral services. The researchers applied their findings that may improve detection of domestic violence cases and helpful treatment plans in the UK are as follows: implementing proper referral pathways, more extensive psychiatric training programs on domestic violence, and programs that can place emphasis on mental health professionals of the opposite sex (Nyame et al., 2013). Unfortunately, some participants did not answer the surveys fully and it resulted in some missing data; however, one potential reason that is important to highlight that involves underreporting cases is that of those whom seek help- may not receive the help they need, so they may not want to continue to seek for services. If clients do not get the informed of the proper support services, then they will not receive the proper treatment they are essentially looking for.
As previously mentioned, providing proper referral services to victims is an extremely important aspect in preventing the increasing number of domestic abuse cases. There is another angle that can be prevent domestic abuse – assessing the relationship of multiple variables in relation to domestic abuse. Some studies have tried to assess university students by establishing a relationship between certain factors of these students (such as age, gender, self-esteem levels, etc.) that contribute toward individuals and their attitudes toward those involved in domestically-violent intimate relationships. For example, one correlational study in Turkey was conducted by Yilmaz and Taplak (2020) to determine the relationship between self-esteem, perception of gender, and attitudes toward dating violence amongst university students at Bozok University. Each participant had to fill out four forms: Personal Information form, Dating Violence Attitude scale, Perception of Gender scale, and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory.
The researchers found that majority of the students demonstrated low self-esteem levels and that male students were more tolerant of dating violence more so than the female students. In addition, mother’s education level, gender, having a dating relationship, being exposed to/witnessing dating violence while being in a relationship, perception of gender, and self-esteem were statistically significant predictive factors of student attitudes toward dating violence (Yilmaz & Taplak, 2020). The study demonstrated a relationship between certain predictive factors that may contribute to individual attitudes (whether negative or positive) towards this subject; however, the results could not be generalizable toward to greater population because it only took a sample of university students- suggestions for future research involved larger sample sizes.
Similarly, Vameghi et al. (2017) sought to compare women of reproductive age. The descriptive-analytical cross-sectional study was conducted by Vameghi and colleagues (2017) to compare socioeconomic status, perceived social support, and mental health in Iranian women between the ages of 18 and 35 living in Tehran in regards to domestic violence- experiencing or not experiencing it (Vameghi et al., 2017). The researchers wanted to determine the status of domestic violence in this specific population as well as compare certain factors that may or may not influence the presence of domestic violence within these women. There were 500 women that were selected to participate in the research and they had to answered several questionnaires including the following: demographic info, socioeconomic, Beck’s Depression, Sarason’s Perceived Social Support, Cohen’s Perceived Stress, and WHO’s Domestic Violence Inventory (Vameghi et al., 2017).
The researchers found that 43.2% of women said they had experienced a minimum of one case of domestic violence where the majority of the abuse was emotional-verbal (Vameghi et al., 2017). Comparing the non-violated and violated groups, the researchers found that younger, less educated women that come from lower income families were more likely to experience domestic violence as opposed to their counterparts. The violated group also experienced lower levels of support by family members, friends, etc. Vameghi and colleagues (2017) found that women in Iran that have lower socioeconomic status and lower education, experience more domestic violence than other women in Iran that have higher socioeconomic status and higher education. The results from Vameghi and colleagues (2017) were reliable, but could not be generalized to the entire population of Iranian women.
The above studies explored certain factors of mental health professionals, university students, and women of the reproductive age. These studies were conducted in other countries which allows further application of these results to help prevent the rise of domestic abuse cases, both internationally and nationally. There is a magnitude of factors that may contribute to underreporting cases of domestically abusive relationships. The reasons can be personal, societal, or both. Some contributing factors that have been explored involve: age, gender, attitudes, experience, etc. Other factors can be contributed to socioeconomic status, the lack of trust for professionals within the fields associated with domestic violence, and the lack of referral sources by mental health professionals.
Globally, domestic abuse cases are still increasing despite the knowledge, information, and various support services that can assist in combating the problem. Being a victim of domestic violence can correlate to depression and high suicidal risks (United Nations, n.d.) Research must continue to examine the contributions that pertain to this topic by diving further and exploring it from different angles. The aim of this paper is to determine the relationship between age, gender, family structure, and experience (whether indirect or direct experience) of domestic violence among the general population in the United States to better comprehend why individuals may not report their experiences or someone else’s experiences. It is hypothesized that younger females that come from smaller families will have more experience with domestic violence. It is believed that the results will generate a better understanding as to why individuals may not report abuse cases as well as provide insight on some methods that can be utilized to combat underreporting while bringing new light on domestically-violent relationships.
The participants for this study will be selected by using convenience sampling. The online survey will be taken from Saint Leo University students and faculty in Dade City, Florida via email. The participants must be 18 years of age or older to participate in the online survey.
Participants will complete a multi-step online survey (See Appendix A). Initially, the participants will be introduced with an informed consent form where they can voluntarily take the survey or decide to opt out. It will be stressed that all answers to the survey will remain anonymous. If they do not consent- they will be taken to the end of the survey. If they do consent, then they will be taken to the demographics portion of the survey. The demographics questions will consist of the following: gender, age, amount of individuals within the household they currently reside in, and highest level of education.
After the demographics are collected- the participants will be directed to four multiple choice questions regarding relationship status and experience with domestic violence (whether they had no experience, past, and/or current experience). A five-point Likert scale will be utilized twice: the first pertains to personality traits of the participant while the second pertains to the participant’s views/attitudes on individuals who are victims of domestically violent relationships. It is important to note that the five-point Likert scale for personality is based off of the dimensions of the Big Five Inventory (John & Srivastava, 1999). The personality traits that will be assessed are as follows: extraversion vs. introversion, agreeableness vs. antagonism, conscientiousness vs. lack of direction, neuroticism vs. emotional stability, and openness vs. closeness to experience.
The final questions of the online survey refer to underreporting of domestic violence. The first multiple choice question will ask: “Have you ever failed to file a domestic violence report that you have experienced personally or learned of from others?” If the participant answers no- they will have to complete an additional multiple choice question regarding why they did not report it. The option to write out a response will be given if the other choices do not align with their reasoning. If the participant answers yes – they will be directed to the last statement of the survey where he/she may answer true or false to the following question: “I am aware of the available resources if myself or someone I know needs to access those resources to get help, if involved in an abusive relationship.” It should be noted that all participants must select an answer to the last statement before completing the survey in its entirety.
Participants will be sent a link from Qualtrics via email with a link to take the online survey. Once the participant consents to participate- they are required to answer all aspects of the survey. Once the survey is completed, the participants will be thanked and directed to more information if they have any questions or concerns about the survey.
The statistical analyses that will be conducted for this study is included in the following: descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, and a multinomial logistic regression. The chi-square t-tests will be used to compare demographic characteristics and their influence on domestic violence experience. The multinomial linear regression will examine the influence of the participants’ responses on underreporting reasons regarding domestic violence. The statistical analyses will help determine the relationship between age, attitudes, gender, family structure, and experience (whether indirect or direct experience) of domestic violence to better understand why individuals may or may not report.
Figure 1. Demographic Characteristics Influence on Domestic Violence Experience
The purpose of the chi-square tests is to compare the mean differences of demographic characteristics of the participants and their influence on domestic violence experience. The variables that will be explores are as follows: age, attitudes, gender, and family structure. The hypothesis was that younger females that come from smaller families will have more experience with domestic violence. From our sample, younger females around the age of 18-24 (M=, SD=) had more experience with domestic violence (M=, SD=) as opposed to older females and their male counterparts, X2 (df, N) = value, p =.
Figure 2. Influence of the Participants’ Responses on Underreporting Domestic Violence
The purpose of the multiple logistic regression analysis is to examine the influence of the various participants’ responses on underreporting reasons regarding domestic violence. The table shows the average responses of participants across the sections of the survey, (particularly paying attention to the means of male and female reasons for not reporting). The results of the regression are significant, X2 (df, N=) = value, R2=, p=. [Binary fitted lines plot with demonstrate the mean differences of the participants’ responses for males and females.]
The purpose of this research is to determine the relationship between age, attitudes, gender, family structure, and experience (whether indirect or direct experience) of domestic violence amongst the U.S. population to better comprehend why individuals may or may not report domestic violence cases. [Insert supporting background information and literature once results are obtained]. The survey consisted of both qualitative and quantitative information, utilizing multiple choice questions, two five-point Likert scales, and fill-in-the-blanks. The literature on the influence of age, attitudes, gender, family structure and experience with domestic violence (whether direct or indirect) suggests a significant influence on underreporting cases of domestic violence.
Implications. The hypothesis suggested that younger females from smaller families will have more experience with domestic violence as opposed to older females and their male counterparts and the responses of the participants will influence their reasoning behind reporting or not reporting cases of domestic violence. There are various reasons as to why an individual may or may not report can be personal or societal. The results support the hypothesis as they show a significant influence of age, attitudes, gender, family structure, and experience on underreporting of domestic violence. [Discuss the differences in responses of the participants.]
The results provide insight on information that can be utilized to prevent the increasing number of domestic violence cases- whether it is reported or not reported. Mental health professionals should be aware of the proper referral services and therapies for domestic violence victims.
Limitations. It is important to consider the limitations of this research study. One of the limitations is response bias where the participants may not be straight forward or truthful with their responses. It is understood that domestic violence is a sensitive subject to touch base on and participants may want to deliver desirable results. Another limitation is that the sample size is rather small, so the results are cannot be representative to the entire U.S. population.
Suggestions for future research. It was found within this research study that there was a significant influence on age, attitudes, family structure, and experience on underreporting cases of domestic violence. This study should be replicated in other areas throughout the country to provide better insight on underreporting statistics. These results can potentially aid in encouraging victims as well as witnesses to report domestic violence cases. Other studies may address the risk factors of being in a domestically violent relationship and the characteristics of a perpetrator.
References Alp Yilmaz, F., & Şener Taplak, A. (2020). Relationship between self‐esteem, perception of gender and attitudes towards dating violence among university students. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care/ Wiley, 57(2), 911–919. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppc.12634 Gover, A. R., Pudrzynska Paul, D., & Dodge, M. (2011). Law enforcement officers’ attitudes about domestic violence. Violence Against Women, 17(5), 619–636. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801211407477 John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (Vol. 2, pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press. NCADV: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2021). Statistics. The Nation’s Leading Grassroots Voice on Domestic Violence. https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS Nyame, S., Howard, L. M., Feder, G., & Trevillion, K. (2013). A survey of mental health professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and preparedness to respond to domestic violence. Journal of Mental Health, 22(6), 536–543. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638237.2013.841871 Sahota, A. S., Gurm, B., & Marchbank, J. (2020). Chapter 8: Why survivors don’t report. Making Sense of a Global Pandemic Relationship Violence Working Together Towards a Violence Free Society. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/nevr/chapter/why-do-survivors-not-report-to-police/ Shariati, A., & Guerette, R. T. (2022). Findings from a natural experiment on the impact of covid-19 residential quarantines on domestic violence patterns in New Orleans. Journal of Family Violence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-022-00380-y United Nations. (n.d.). What is domestic abuse? United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/what-is-domestic-abuse Vameghi, R., Akbari, S. A. A., Majd, H. A., Sajedi, F., & Sajjadi, H. (2017). The comparison of socioeconomic status, perceived social support and mental status in women of reproductive age experiencing and not experiencing domestic violence in Iran. Journal of Injury and Violence Research, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.5249/jivr.v10i1.983 World Health Organization. (2021, March 9). Violence against women. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women