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Domestic Violence in the States

Introduction  -  Legislation  -  Data Sources  -  Projects  -  Reports

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Introduction

Although most states differ in the kinds of agencies that are collecting data and the type of information being collected, there are similarities across states. This section presents a general overview of how states are collecting domestic violence data and how agencies are using the information.

The prevalence of domestic violence is difficult to measure. Not all offenses are reported to law enforcement, and not all victims seek services. Although most domestic violence service providers keep records on the number of people seeking services, these data are not collected consistently across agencies and states. Often, individual information is not collected, which makes separating duplicates difficult. For example, a person may visit a shelter on multiple occasions and may seek a variety of services. This individual would be counted for each stay and for each service. Service providers in some states do collect individual statistics, but may not indicate whether the incident was reported to police. In these cases, it would be difficult to try to use service provider data to supplement law enforcement numbers due to the problem of duplicating existing incidents.

In theory, person-level data collected by service providers could be used in conjunction with law enforcement data to give estimates of domestic violence incidents. No identifying information would be necessary; demographic information (gender, age and race) and incident dates for all individuals seeking services in an entire jurisdiction could be used. Service providers, however, do not relapse such information for privacy reasons, even though it is impossible to identify an individual through such data. Until data become available for research, we will continue to be unable to truly provide an accurate picture of the extent of domestic violence in our states.

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