Why Domestic Violence Goes Unreported

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Most Domestic Violence Goes Unreported

The National Crime Victimization Survey administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics is the nation’s primary source of information on non-fatal crimes both reported and not reported to the police. In the most recent report published in December 2018, the results showed only 47%of cases of domestic violence or intimate partner violence were reported to the police. That is less than half!

Domestic violence is a serious, sometimes life-threatening, situation, and is about power and control. One partner is controlling the other through a pattern of physical, verbal, or mental abuse.

Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It affects people of all races, ages, sexual orientations, religions, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, and education levels. It’s a universal problem, so why are victims so wary of reporting it?

Why Does Domestic Violence Go Unreported?

Domestic violence happens to people who are in an intimate relationship—people who are married, living together, or dating. The violence is perpetrated by someone you care for and love, which can make it that much more challenging to accept, let alone tell others about. You may have built a life with this person. You may share friends and family. You may have children together.

At the beginning of a relationship, many abusers are not abusers at all. They play the role of a loving, caring partner, and their abusive behaviors don’t surface for months or years into the relationship. When the abuse does surface, it’s easy for the abuser to make believable excuses—he or she was having a bad day at work, it was just a temporary loss of control, or he or she just had too much to drink.

Domestic Violence Can Be Hard to Identify

Domestic violence is not always easy to recognize. Sure, physical violence such as punching or choking is easy to identify, but what about more subtle forms of abuse such as making you feel guilty all the time or making you think you are crazy. This type of emotional abuse isn’t easily recognized, and over time, your abuser grooms you to doubt yourself and whittles away at your self-esteem so he or she can gain more power and control over you.

Some of the warning signs of domestic violence that aren’t as blatant as physical violence include the following actions your partner may take:
  • Frequently verbally puts you down and makes you feel bad about yourself
  • Exhibits extreme jealous of your friends or family and prevents you from spending time with them
  • Spies on you, monitors who you see, where you go, and what you do
  • Takes your money or refuses to give you money
  • Forbids you from working
  • Forces or manipulates you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Threatens to hurt your children, family, or pets
  • Makes you take drugs or alcohol


Fearing the Consequences of Reporting

Domestic violence is frequently unreported because of fear. What will happen if you report the situation to the authorities; will your abuser hurt you, your children, your pets, or other family members?

Some victims are afraid no one will believe them, especially if the abuse is happening behind closed doors when in public, their spouse behaves like the model partner. Some victims are afraid they will lose custody of their children. Some victims are scared they will bring shame to their family or that their friends and family will judge them.

Some victims are afraid they don’t have the financial resources to support themselves without their partners help, let alone potentially hire a lawyer for a costly divorce or custody battle. For victims with a disability, domestic abuse is especially challenging to report because they are dependent on their abuser for their care.

What Can You Do?

If you or someone you know is the suspected victim of domestic violence, there are many resources for assistance. It’s critical to seek professional help right away.  
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org
  • Local Domestic Violence Hotlines or Organizations, such as the YMCA, YWCA, Battered Women’s Shelter, Women Helping Women, Legal Aid Society, or local church resources.
  • A local police officer or attorney

TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.

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