September 13, 2008
Almost half of all women murdered in New York City are killed by their intimate partners.
No, that is not a mistake, it is a painful reality. According to a New York City Health Department report released last week, dying at the hands of their partners was the sad fate of 44% of the women assassinated between 2003 and 2005.
In other words, right here in our city, thousands of women and teenage girls are being punched, kicked, shot or stabbed by the people they are supposed to be able to trust and love. And the problem becomes even worse among the city’s poor, black and Hispanic women.
“Traditionally, women have been treated as the property of men,” said Grace Pérez, a leading activist against domestic violence in New York. “And that’s one of the reasons for domestic violence.”
Whatever the reasons may be, it is troubling to consider what the prevalence of such despicable behavior says of us as a society.
According to the report, the citywide homicide rate from domestic violence is 1.1 per 100,000 women, but that jumps to 1.5 for Hispanic women and women in poor neighborhoods, 1.7 for black women and 1.8 for women in the Bronx. About 76% of the fatal incidents took place at home and just 15% of the victims had active orders of protection when they were killed.
The Department of Health arrived at these conclusions by analyzing data from city hospitals, medical examiner records and surveys by the health and police departments.
One of the more worrisome findings of the study is the increasing partner violence and abuse early in life. Caroline C. was one of those girls. By the time she was 17, she already had endured three years of abuse at the hands of a violent boyfriend, she told Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
The number of high school girls being victimized is going up. In the city’s public high schools 10.6% of the girls reported date violence in 2005, up from 7.1% in 1999.
Yet, because teens are less likely to report abuse by a partner, these numbers probably do not tell the whole story.
It is no consolation that domestic violence is not an exclusively New York problem. In fact, it is an epidemic of national proportions. According to Safe Horizon, one of New York’s leading victim assistance organizations, in the U.S. one in three women reports being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in her life.
More than 32 million Americans are affected by domestic violence each year, resulting in nearly 2 million injuries and approximately 1,500 deaths. Here in New York, 4,000 visits to hospital emergency departments were due to partner violence in 2005 alone.
At least one-third of Americans say that they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.
But as the city’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said: “No woman should be threatened or abused, let alone in her home or by her partner. If someone is abusing you – or you’re worried about a friend or family member – please call 311 or (800) 621-HOPE (621-4673). Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.”