On May 20th MenWeb Online Journal wrote to the Centers for Disease Control, raising concerns about the National Violence Against Women Survey and National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and the way these have been presented to the public. You may read the original letter (Word document) here. Dr. Linda C. Degutis, Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has replied, and the MenWeb Online Journal has responded. CDC's reply and my response are shown below. You may read the CDC's original (unmarked) response (Word document) here
Dear Dr. Degutis,
Thank you for your reply.
I'm not sure it addresses all of my concerns.
I have added my responses to the body of your letter, below.
Dear Mr. Hoff:
Thank you for your email and questions about the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). Dr. Frieden asked me to respond to your inquiry on his behalf. NISVS is a significant advance in our knowledge of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence in the United States. It is the first ongoing, national, population-based survey dedicated solely to describing and monitoring these important issues from a public health perspective.
NISVS also includes information that has not previously been measured in nationally representative surveys. The survey explicitly gathers information from adult women and men in the U.S. on sexual violence and stalking by any perpetrator in addition to specifically asking about a range of victimizations committed by intimate partners.
The primary objectives of NISVS are to:
- Describe the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence and stalking by any perpetrator, as well as a range of violence outcomes committed by intimate partners
- Identify persons most likely to experience these forms of violence
- Describe the impacts and health consequences of these forms of violence
The recently released NISVS 2010 Summary Report helps improve our understanding of both lifetime experiences of violence and violence experienced in the 12 months prior to the survey. We hope this data will strongly encourage practitioners, researchers, and policy makers to engage in an array of activities for prevention and intervention. The full report along with the Executive Summary and other materials is available at http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs.
For more information on CDC's other violence prevention work please visit
http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention.com. We have included detailed response to your questions on the following page.
Thank you again for your interest in NISVS and your commitment to preventing domestic violence in the United States.
Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Response to Questions and Concerns about the National Violence Against Women Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 Summary Report
Highlights added by MOJ in fucsia, MOJ responses in fucsia bullets, below
- Your first concern is that the data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) are inaccurate. However, the data presented in both the 2011 Fact Sheet and the Veto Violence website is correct. Exhibit 10 (page 26) from the NVAWS report displays both the number of women or men who reported being a victim (1.5 million women, 835,000 men) as well as the total number of victimizations reported by those victims (4.9 million victimizations for women; 2.9 million for men). This provides a more complete understanding of intimate partner violence and the total number of victimizations cited in other materials conveys the true burden of this problem.
- " The CDC VetoViolence training course materials state "Another 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men are victims of intimate partner-related assaults." This is a statement of the number of women victimized, not the number of incidents. The CDC materials seem to state that an unduplicated count of women victimized is 4.8 million.
- Your next concern is that CDC minimizes intimate partner violence against men, and you state that the text of the Executive Summary and Fact Sheet stresses less accurate data than the tables within the report. However, it is important to note that the NISVS 2010 Summary Report reports a large volume of data, and it is not possible to highlight all of the information contained in the report in the Executive Summary or to highlight every data point from the tables in the text. Across all types of violence measured in NISVS, the Executive Summary focuses primarily on lifetime prevalence to convey the true burden of these problems in the United States population.
- " It is disappointing that CDC considers the number of men who are victims of physical violence or psychological abuse to be a minor point, not worthy of mention in the Executive Summary, Communications Toolkit or Fact Sheet that CDC prepared. This is especially true when there is such a debate about gender symmetry in IPV.
Regarding the presentation of data on physical violence by an intimate partner, it is worth noting that the CDC definition of intimate partner violence includes four components-physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and psychological or emotional violence which often includes measures of stalking. None of these concepts-rape, physical violence, or stalking-in isolation represents a full measure of intimate partner violence. To help readers more fully understand what has been measured and combined, we report both a composite measure of the three components combined in addition to the component parts of the measure for both men and women and for lifetime and for the 12 months prior to the survey.
- You state that lifetime prevalence conveys the "true burden" on the U.S. population, including males, but research shows that women are more likely than men to remember past events, in the case of industrial accidents (Jenkins, Earle-Richardson Slingerland and May, 2002), childhood sexual abuse (Herlitz and Rehnman, 2008) as well as IPV (Straus, 2005; Straus 2007, Dutton and Nicholls, 2005). It is unclear how less-reliable data can present a more true picture.
- As you say, there are four, not three, components to your definition of intimate partner violence. But your composite measure completely ignores one of these, threats of physical or sexual violence, and ignores the data on a second component, psychological or emotional violence
- The revised CTS scale and NVAWS both asked about being threatened with a knife or gun. For reasons not explained, NISVS did not even ask about this. Yet the NVAWS data on those actually victimized (not those who responded to the survey) shows that more men than women were victims of these threats.
- Further, your composite measure does not include a second of the four key components, psychological or emotional violence. You reported lifetime and 12-month victimization by psychological aggression (expressive aggression or coercive control) but chose not to include this direct measure of psychological or emotional violence in your composite variable.
The statement made in the NISVS Fact Sheet about women being disproportionately impacted is in reference to the prevalence of the composite measure of intimate partner violence that included any intimate partner violence-related impact (the bottom row from Tables 4.1 and 4.2 that show prevalence of IPV with impact as 28.8% for women and 9.9% for men. These impact data are further detailed on Tables 5.1 and 5.2 for women and men, respectively.
- Stalking cannot serve as a proxy for psychological or emotional violence, since a person can be very emotionally distraught, without being "very fearful or believed that someone close to the victim would be harmed or killed," the criterion NISVS used for counting stalking. As the NVAW Extent report stated (p. 52) their results "suggest that women are more frightened by intimates who victimize them."
- But the NISVS Fact Sheet does not even mention or refer to these data from Tables 4.1 and 4.2. Instead, it reports the number of women raped by intimates or strangers (lifetime and 12-months), of women stalked by intimates or strangers, number of women experiencing severe physical violence, and number of women impacted by intimate partner rape, stalking or physical violence.
- You also express concern that there is no mention that more men than women experienced physical violence in the past year. However, these data are clearly presented in Tables 4.1 and Tables 4.2 for women and men, respectively.
- Thank you for helping make my point, which was that your response to your FAQ question "Does this report show how both males and females experience violence?" does not mention male victimization by physical violence or psychological aggression. Yes, these data are buried in Tables 4.1 and 4.2 of the report, but as you stated, CDC did not deem these worthy of mention in the Executive Summary or FAQs.
- Your final concern is that CDC's teen dating violence work is focused on girls, and you cite CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which measures reports of physical dating violence victimization. While NISVS does not collect data from youth under age 18, the data indicates that most female and male victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (69% of female victims; 53% of male victims) experienced some form of intimate partner violence for the first time before 25 years of age. To address the public health burden of teen dating violence, CDC has developed Dating Matters™: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships, a comprehensive teen dating violence prevention initiative based on the current evidence about what works in prevention. Dating Matters™ focuses on 11- to 14-year-olds, both girls and boys, in high-risk, urban communities. It includes preventive strategies for individuals, peers, families, schools, and neighborhoods. Over the next several years, Dating Matters™ will be implemented in middle schools and neighborhoods in four urban areas. The focus is on building healthy teen dating relationships and addresses both victimization and perpetration among girls and boys. For more information on Dating Matters™, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/DatingMatters.
- o It is refreshing to review these gender-neutral materials. Thank you.
I wish CDC evinced this gender-neutral approach to IPV among adults.
The issues in IPV are its extent, its consequences, how to help victims and how to prevent it. The issue for CDC, made clear in its NISVS Fact Sheet, is to take sides in the already-polarized issue of gender symmetry in the incidence and the consequences of IPV. To this end, it deems the data on physical violence against men too insignificant to highlight. CDC states that the components of IPV are "physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and psychological or emotional violence which often includes measures of stalking." CDC asked no questions about threats of physical violence (e.g. threatened with knife or gun), ignores its own data on psychological or emotional violence (coercive control and expressive aggression) and constructs a composite variable that uses rape, physical violence and stalking. CDC states that stalking is often a measure of psychological abuse, but only counts stalking if there is a threat of physical harm. Stalking is not an adequate measure of threats of violence or of psychological or emotional violence.
Again, thank you for your reply.
Bert H. Hoff
Editor, MenWeb Online Journal