Washington — Women in their high-school years to their mid-20s are nearly three times as vulnerable to attack by a husband, boyfriend or former partner as those in other age groups, a Bureau of Justice Statistics study shows.
But domestic violence victims between the ages of 35 and 49 are most likely to be killed, the Justice Department said Sunday, citing statistics from 1999.
Julie Fulcher, director of public policy for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said her group's experience shows younger women are indeed at higher risk. She said their slightly older counterparts are probably more likely to die at the hands of a partner because they are more likely to live with their abusers, leaving them more exposed to their violence.
"We do know that domestic violence as a pattern of behavior tends to ... escalate over time," Fulcher said. "Domestic violence doesn't generally begin on a first date. It begins with some controlling behaviors."
There were a total of 791,210 "intimate partner violence" victims in 1999. Eighty-five percent of the attacks were against women, including 1,218 murders, 91,470 rapes and sexual assaults, 65,970 robberies, 68,810 aggravated assaults and 444,860 simple assaults, the report said.
The information on murders came from FBI data, which is based on reports made to 17,000 police agencies nationwide. All other statistics were gleaned from interviews with over 650,000 people over age 12, adding data on the larger number of crimes that go unreported.
The report defined "intimates" as current or former husbands or wives, boyfriends or girlfriends, or same-sex partners.
A little more than half of domestic violence crimes against men and women between 1993 and 1999 were committed by a current boyfriend or girlfriend, a third by a spouse and the rest by an ex-spouse. About 10 percent of domestic crimes against men and 2 percent of domestic crimes against women were committed by a partner of the same gender, the report found.
Overall, six women out of 1,000 were victims of domestic violence in 1999 a 41 percent decrease since 1993, mirroring a nationwide crime drop over the decade.
Sixteen out of every 1,000 women between the ages of 16 and 24 were attacked by an intimate in 1999 the highest rate of any age group, the report said. Eighty-one percent of all female victims faced an unarmed offender, but half the attacks resulted in injury the vast majority of them minor, the report said.
Victimization rates were similar between racial groups, except that black women between 20 and 24 years old tended to experience more attacks than white women.
Of all murdered women between 35 and 49, 38 percent were killed by an intimate partner more than any other age group. But Rennison said she was startled to discover the rate for 12- to 15-year-old girls: A tenth of homicides in that age group were committed by the girls' boyfriends.