There is no denying that the mental problems of some offenders do play a part but it is smaller than we intuit. Cultural, social, and even historical factors are the decisive determinants of spousal abuse and domestic violence.
The United States
The National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS) reported 691,710 nonfatal violent victimisations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims during 2001. About 588,490, or 85% of intimate partner violence incidents, involved women. The offender in one fifth of the totality of crimes committed against women was an intimate partner compared to only 3% of crimes committed against men.
Still, this type of offences against women declined by half between 1993 (1.1 million nonfatal cases) and 2001 (588,490) from 9.8 to 5 per thousand women. Intimate partner violence against men also declined from 162,870 (1993) to 103,220 (2001) from 1.6 to 0.9 per 1000 males. Overall, the incidence of such crimes dropped from 5.8 to 3.0 per thousand.
Even so, the price in lost lives was and remains high.
In the year 2000, 1247 women and 440 men were murdered by an intimate partner in the United States compared to 1357 men and 1600 women in 1976 and around 1300 women in 1993.
This reveals an interesting and worrying trend:
The number overall intimate partner offences against women declined sharply but not so the number of fatal incidents. These remained more or less the same since 1993!
The cumulative figures are even more chilling:
One in four to one in three women have been assaulted or raped at a given point in her lifetime (Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998).
The Mental Health Journal says:
"The precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons: it often goes unreported, even on surveys; there is no nationwide organisation that gathers information from local police departments about the number of substantiated reports and calls; and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence."
Using a different methodology (counting separately multiple incidents perpetrated on the same woman), a report titled "Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey", compiled by Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes for the National Institute of Justice and the Centres for Disease Control and published in 1998, came up with a figure of 5.9 million physical assaults against 1.5 million targets in the USA annually.
According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, and Neil Websdale, Understanding Domestic Homicide, Northeastern University Press, 1999 women in the process of separation or divorce were the targets of half of all intimate partner violent crimes. In Florida the figure is even higher (60%).
Hospital staff are ill-equipped and ill-trained to deal with this pandemic. Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States were put down to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is more like 50%.