While statistics show sharp declines in violence against women over the past 30 years, vigilance is required to prevent a return to when domestic violence was not considered a crime, said Katie Kaukinen, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs, who recently shared the results of her analyses of 28 years of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities on the University of Colorado Colorado Springs campus.
“We have seen a significant decline in domestic violence since the 1990s,” Kaukinen said. “I like to remind people that we’ve had a lot progress. I will also put the caveat that we’ve had a lot of backlash.”
Kaukinen traced current domestic violence laws to the women’s rights movement of the 1970s. Those efforts led to tougher laws in the 1980s and 1990s, the effects of which are now included in long-term studies. Examples of relatively recent laws include mandatory arrest, jail and fines for domestic violence offenders as well as a proliferation of nonlegal services such as shelters, crisis services and healthy relationship education.
Before a primarily female audience of students and community leaders, Kaukinen drew laughs when she pointed out that statistics show men have been among the greatest benefactors of the domestic violence prevention movement. The number of men killed by their spouses or intimate partners has declined in recent years; Kaukinen pointed to research by other scholars who theorize the decline is the result of women having alternatives to killing their abusers. Those options include moving to a shelter or having independent sources of income that enable them to leave abusive relationships.
Still, there are connections between violence against women and such factors as race, education levels, employment and marriage, according to Kaukinen.