Age Specifications for Injuries from Domestic Violence Against Women

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The prevalent, false claim that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women occurs with different age specifications. Consider two claims of this type attributed to 1984 and 1992 statements of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General’s reported 1984 claim about domestic violence against women did not specify particular ages. The Surgeon General’s 1992 claim included the specification women ages 15 to 44. References to the Surgeon General’s 1992 claim about domestic violence against women commonly drop that age specification.

Age Specifications in Claims of Domestic Violence as Cause of Injuries to Women

"leading cause" claim"largest cause" claim
Source: Congressional documents, court cases, law journals, newspapers, and web documents, 1996-2005 from the Domestic Violence Claims Dataset.
age specificationinstancesage specificationinstances
15-4423215-4426
15-54618-351
18-351women (no age specified)183
18-492
18-551
19-442
women (no age specified)243

Patterns of injury vary significantly by age. Injuries from unintentional falls occur about twice as often to women over age 44 relative to women ages 15 through 44. Injuries from being an occupant of a motor vehicle in an unintentional crash occur about half as often for women over age 44 relative to women ages 15 to 44. For both age groups of women, the leading cause of injury is unintentional falls. Given that injuries from unintentional falls increase greatly with age, for domestic violence to be the leading cause of injury both to females ages 15 to 44 and to women in general (females ages 15 and over or females ages 18 or over), domestic violence injuries must either be:

  1. much higher than injuries from unintentional falls for women ages 15 to 44, or
  2. domestic violence injuries must, like injuries from unintentionally falls, be roughly double for women ages 45 and over relative to such injuries for women ages 15 to 44.

Both those suppositions are highly improbable.

Well-established nationally representative injury surveys, administered for broad public purposes, make clear that domestic violence is far from the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44, or to women of all ages. On any reasonable interpretation, both the 1984 and 1992 Surgeon General statements about domestic violence against women are grotesquely false. Those two statements also aren’t consistent with each other given knowledge about the changing distribution of the cause of injuries across ages.

Comparing Leading Causes of Injury to Women by Age, U.S. 2010

women ages 15 to 44women ages 45 and over
Source: Compiled from NEISS AIP, U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, NEISS-AIP on injuries prompting visit an emergency room. Data available online through WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports.
cause of injuryinjury-related visitscause of injuryinjury-related visits
1. Unintentional Fall1,319,7951. Unintentional Fall2,700,278
2. Unintentional MV-Occupant992,4102. Unintentional Overexertion506,394
3. Unintentional Overexertion890,4293. Unintentional MV-Occupant459,023
4. Unintentional Struck By/Against779,9314. Unintentional Struck By/Against444,805
5. Assault other than sexual assault, Struck By/Against421,4835. Unintentional Cut/Pierce235,029
6. Unintentional Cut/Pierce402,1396. Unintentional Other Bite/Sting169,525
7. Unintentional Other Bite/Sting266,8507. Unintentional Poisoning144,044
8. Unintentional Other Specified266,3388. Unintentional Other Specified141,868
9. Unintentional Poisoning155,8359. Unintentional Other Transport101,216
10. Unintentional Other Transport135,28210. Assault other than sexual assault, Struck By/Against92,744

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