By Ron Wallace, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at American Military University
*This article is part of In Public Safety’s October focus on domestic violence awareness*
Victims of domestic violence often rely on nonprofit and government-funded agencies to help them get out of violent relationships. When those services are not available, victims are likely to remain in their abusive situations and may not seek assistance again.
In order to understand how many individuals are seeking assistance from such agencies, and, more importantly, how many agencies are not able to fulfill victims’ request for services, a yearly survey is conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). On a specific day every September, agencies are asked to participate in a survey by reporting all domestic violence services during a 24-hour period.
[Related Article: What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?]
The information collected in this survey is used to generate a one-day snapshot or census of the demand for domestic violence services. More importantly, this report highlights the number of requests from victims of domestic violence that cannot be fulfilled due to a lack of available services. After compilation and analysis of the data, copies of the annual reports are published on the NNEDV website.
How the Census Process Works
Response rates during the past few years have been impressive; generally about 89 percent of agencies participate. As a result, this survey provides a fairly accurate snapshot of the prevalence of domestic violence and the need for assistance nationwide.
The most recent survey was conducted on September 16, 2015. However, the results from the survey will not be available for several months. Examining the survey findings from the past two censuses can provide a view of the prevalence of domestic violence within our society.
Survey Results from 2014
The 2014 census was conducted on September 10, 2014 with 1,697 of the 1,916 (89 percent) known U.S. domestic violence programs participating.
On that single day:
- 67,646 victims of domestic violence were receiving some type of assistance
- 36,608 victims were in some type of emergency shelter or transitional housing as a form of refuge from an abusive relationship
- 20,845 calls for assistance or information were answered by domestic violence hotlines
- 23,506 individuals attended some type of prevention and education program related to domestic violence
According to the census, 10,871 requests for services could not be fulfilled, which included 6,126 requests (56 percent) for emergency housing. The reasons given for not being able to fulfill requests included:
- Reductions in government funding (28 percent)
- Lack of sufficient staff (18 percent)
- Cuts in private funding sources (18 percent)
- Reductions in individual donations (14 percent)
Results from the 2013 Census
The 2013 census was conducted on September 17, 2013. That year 1,649 of the 1,905 (87 percent) known domestic violence programs in the U.S. participated. On that single day, agencies reported:
- 66,581 victims of domestic violence nationwide were receiving some type of assistance
- 36,348 victims were in some type of emergency shelter or transitional housing
- Domestic violence hotlines nationwide answered 20,267 calls for assistance or information
- 23,389 individuals nationwide attended some type of prevention and education program related to domestic violence
On that same day, agencies nationwide had 9,641 requests for services that could not be fulfilled, which included 5,778 (60 percent) for emergency housing. Reasons given included:
- Reductions in government funding (27 percent)
- Lack of sufficient staff (20 percent)
- Cuts in private funding sources (18 percent)
- Reductions in individual donations (10 percent).
What the Numbers Mean
While the number of victims served and hotline calls answered rose slightly from 2013 to 2014, so did the number of unmet requests for services by victims. Reductions in funding also appeared to increase from 2013 to 2014.
[Related Article: The Need for a Robust Victim Assistance Program]
The statistics do not necessarily indicate an increase in domestic violence. The slight increases in requests for services might be attributed to increasing awareness of the issue, which encourages victims to seek assistance. However, the numbers demonstrate a lack of appropriate funding that result in victims not obtaining assistance during a time of crisis.
Victims who are refused assistance once are less likely to reach out again for assistance. An important first step to ending the cycle of violence is ensuring services are available when victims reach the point that they are ready for help.
About the Author: Dr. Ron Wallace is a criminal justice professional with more than 30 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. He has worked with criminal justice agencies nationwide as a consultant on various projects and has several years of teaching experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Wallace currently serves as an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at American Public University System. He has conducted research and published articles on the topic of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).