A bruised cheek. A broken bone. Verbal battering. A window shattered in an effort to intimidate. The rate of such violence or abuse between husband and wife – or any two intimate partners – has been on the wane in America, falling by a stunning 64 percent between 1994 and 2010.
That finding, from a recent report by the US Department of Justice on intimate partner violence (IPV), parallels the overall drop in violent crime during that period. Many in the field cite a broad shift in attitudes that began in the 1980s and '90s, crediting public awareness campaigns, national legislation protecting victims, and subsequent training of police and prosecutors to recognize intimate partner violence as a crime, rather than as a private matter.
“There has been an enormous shift in public awareness about domestic violence – the message [to victims] being you are not alone and you can report what is happening to you to law enforcement,” says law professor Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia University's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. The message to perpetrators, meanwhile, is that violence against an intimate partner “is not a badge of manhood,” she adds.