Young women more likely abuse victims

WASHINGTON -- Women in their high-school years to their mid-20s are nearly three times as vulnerable to attack by a husband, boyfriend or former partner as those in other age groups, a Bureau of Justice Statistics study shows.

But domestic violence victims between the ages of 35 and 49 are most likely to be killed, the Justice Department said Sunday, citing statistics from 1999.

Julie Fulcher, director of public policy for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said her group's experience shows younger women are indeed at higher risk. She said their slightly older counterparts are probably more likely to die at the hands of a partner because they are more likely to live with their abusers, leaving them more exposed to their violence.

"We do know that domestic violence as a pattern of behavior tends to ... escalate over time," Fulcher said. "Domestic violence doesn't generally begin on a first date. It begins with some controlling behaviors."

There were a total of 791,210 "intimate partner violence" victims in 1999. Eighty-five percent of the attacks were against women, including 1,218 murders, 91,470 rapes and sexual assaults, 65,970 robberies, 68,810 aggravated assaults and 444,860 simple assaults, the report said.

The information on murders came from FBI data, which is based on reports made to 17,000 police agencies nationwide. All other statistics were gleaned from interviews with more than 650,000 people older than 12, adding data on the larger number of crimes that go unreported.

The report defined "intimates" as current or former husbands or wives, boyfriends or girlfriends, or same-sex partners.

A little more than half of domestic violence crimes -- against men and women -- between 1993 and 1999 were committed by a boyfriend or girlfriend, a third by a spouse and the rest by an ex-spouse. About 10 percent of domestic crimes against men and 2 percent of domestic crimes against women were committed by a partner of the same gender, the report found.

41 percent decrease

Overall, six women out of 1,000 were victims of domestic violence in 1999 -- a 41 percent decrease since 1993, mirroring a nationwide crime drop over the decade.

"But the rate of violence against intimate partners did not go down as much as other crimes," said Justice statistician Callie Rennison, the report's author. "It tells me that this is perhaps a more stubborn problem."

Sixteen out of every 1,000 women between the ages of 16 and 24 were attacked by an intimate in 1999 -- the highest rate of any age group, the report said.