If you have ever tried to find statistics about the prevalence of domestic violence, you know how hard it can be. The numbers vary significantly based on the inputs — worldwide versus United States, violence against women as opposed to violence against women or children and men. In addition, many states do not specifically track crimes of domestic violence, making it difficult (or even impossible) to know how many of these offenses occur each year. Finally, domestic violence is a notoriously underreported crime. For a variety of reasons, many victims of domestic violence will never report their abuse to the authorities or to anyone else.
For all of these reasons, it is difficult to know just how common domestic violence is in our society. Yet as a provider of services to victims of domestic violence, we know that women, children and men routinely seek out our help. We know that all forms of domestic violence happen here in Westmoreland County every single day — yet it is challenging to convey the seriousness of the problem with others.
One way that others can begin to understand the scope of the problem is through the Domestic Violence Annual Census. Each year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) performs a census to determine how many people across the United States are seeking domestic violence services — and how many needs are going unmet. This is accomplished through a one-day survey of organizations like Blackburn Center involving an unduplicated count of adults and children who seek domestic violence services over a 24 hour period.
As part of the survey, organizations provide information about:
The types of services requested;
The number of services requests that were unmet due to a lack of resources; and
The barriers that programs face in providing services to victims of domestic violence.
No client information is provided to NNEDV as part of this survey. Using the data gathered, NNDEV is able to compile an annual census that raises awareness about the problem of domestic violence — and the amazing work done by agencies like Blackburn Center across the country.
So what do these reports tell us? Here are the key facts.
In 2018, 1,608 (out of 1,870 identified) domestic violence programs answered NNEDV’s survey on September 13. In a 24 hour period, 74,823 victims were served. This includes:
42,494 adults and children who received housing;
32,329 adults and children who received other services, such as counseling, legal advocacy and more; and
19,459 hotline calls were answered.
On that same day, 9,183 requests for services were unmet. The majority of these requests (6,972) were for housing.
Here in Pennsylvania, 59 out of 59 domestic violence programs participated in the survey. In a 24 hour period, 2,387 victims were served by these programs. This includes:
1,341 victims received housing;
1,046 adults and children received other services, such as counseling, legal advocacy and more; and
708 hotline calls were answered (an average of 30 per hour).
On that same, 416 requests for services were unmet. 56% of these requests (234) were for housing.
These numbers are just a snapshot of one day, and only reveal the number of people who reached out for help. Even so, it demonstrates just how common domestic violence is in our country. We know that we cannot simply multiply 2,387 people times 365 to find out how many people receive domestic violence services in Pennsylvania each year. Doing so doesn't take into account those individuals who come back week after week for therapy, counseling and other forms of help. Yet it does give us an idea of the scale of the problem in a relatively small state like Pennsylvania, with a population of just 12.8 million people. Importantly, these figures don't include anyone who did not place a hotline call or go to an agency for assistance -- which means that even these shockingly high numbers are likely a drastic undercount of the true number of women, children and men who suffer domestic violence in our state.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — which makes it the perfect time for all of us to recognize that this crime isn’t something that happens in other communities and other places. It occurs all around us, at startling rates. Working together, we can make a difference — starting with raising awareness about just how serious the problem is.