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Perspective: Home is Where the Overwhelming Majority of Violence Occurs

In the wake of Newtown and Boston and ongoing NRA lies, it's useful to remember that over half of all injuries are inflicted by loved ones or acquaintances.

Photo Credit: Oleg Golovnev/


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Since the Newtown massacre, visions of unfathomable crazy mass killers and armed strangers in the night have colonized the American mind. Proposed laws have been  drawn up that would keep potential mass murderers from getting their hands on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, or that would stop hardened criminals from buying guns. But the danger out there is both more mundane and more terrible: you're more likely to be hurt or killed by someone you know or love. And you'll probably be at home when it happens.

Between 2005 and 2010,  60% of all violent injuries in this country were inflicted by loved ones or acquaintances. And  60% of the time those victimizations happened in the home. In 2011,  79% of murders reported to the FBI (in which the victim-offender relationship was known) were committed by friends, loved ones, or acquaintances. Of the 3.5 million assaults and murders against family members between 1998 and 2002 (the last time such a study was done),  almost half were crimes against spouses.  Eleven percent were against children. But the majority of violent deaths are self-imposed. Suicide is the  leading cause of violent death in the U.S., and  most of those self-killings happen at home.

Violence Against Women

Vanette has plastic, rose-tinted glasses on and cowrie shells weaved into her braids. Her nails are long and thick and painted purple-brown. She has ample gaps in her teeth, and she's sitting at the communal dining table at a “transitional home” in Washington, D.C., telling me about the time her boyfriend broke her knee.

Vanette doesn't really think of that as domestic violence, though. "When I think of physical violence, I think of punchin' and smackin'," she says. The fat silver chain bracelets on her wrists jangle against the table as she talks. Besides, she says, she was the one who started the fight. Her boyfriend had polyps in his lungs and was supposed to carry around an oxygen tank, flush his lungs twice a week with a machine, and not smoke. One night in 2010, when Vanette got home, there he was, smoking weed in the living room with friends. "I was like, yeah, well, whatever, you're gonna kill yourself anyway." And then he shoved her over the back of the couch.

Domestic violence is the  number one cause of injury to women. The incidents add up to more than all the rapes, muggings, and car accidents women experience each year.  One out of every four women in the U.S. will be physically injured by a lover in her lifetime. That translates into a woman being assaulted  every nine seconds in America. Immigrant women are beaten  at higher rates than U.S. citizens, and African-American women are subjected to the most severe forms of violence. Not surprisingly, a  shaky economy just makes these numbers worse.

And then there are the rapes. Over a lifetime,  one out of every six American women is raped. For Native Americans, that number is  one in three. For Native Alaskans, it can be up to  12 times the national rate.

And don’t forget the killings.  Sixty-four percent of the women killed every year are murdered by family members or lovers. There are more than  1,000 homicides of that kind annually, or approximately  three a day. If there’s a gun in a home where domestic abuse is a common thing, a woman is  eight timesmore likely to be killed.

Faced with this grim pile of data, the American home begins to look less like a “castle” and more like a slaughterhouse.

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