Violence Definitions And Statistics

This page is part of the Health effects of violence project. These topics can be difficult to read about, particularly for those who are survivors of violence or have experienced trauma. We encourage readers to practice self-care, recognizing the the wisdom of Audre Lorde that "caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare" [13, p. 131].

According to the World Health Organization [11], violence can be defined broadly defined as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

This page provides definitions and key statistics1 related to different forms of violence, as well as links to relevant fact sheets and other resources where available.

Structural violence

"Structural violence" can be understood as "systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals" [6]. Examples of structural violence include racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. Health inequities, such as higher rates of infant mortality in African Americans, are examples of how structural violence impacts public health2.


A death caused by self-directed behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). According to the CDC, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2010, with an average of 105 suicides a day in that year (total of 38,364), with 1 suicide per every 25 attempts. Among American Indians/Alaska Natives aged 15-34, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death [7]. According to the American Association of Suicidology, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) youth are twice as likely as straight youth to attempt suicide [3].

Intimate partner violence

The term "intimate partner violence" describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy (CDC, 2013). It can also include financial abuse, or the use of systems such as immigration and child protective services to intimidate, coerce, or otherwise harm an intimate partner. The CDC found that approximately 34.6% of White non-Hispanic women, 37.1% of Hispanic women, and 4 out of 10 (43.7%) of non-Hispanic Black women had been the victim of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (CDC, 2010).

Sexual violence

Sexual violence encompasses a spectrum of offenses [4] from completed unwanted sex acts to the creation of a hostile social environment characterized by the normalization of sexual aggression [14]. It has been found that "the fear of rape is a daily reality for many women, limiting their freedom of movement and reducing their quality of life" [5, p. 17].

The Chrysalis Collective defines rape as "non-consensual sex through physical force, manipulation, stress, or fear; the experience of sex as the unwanted physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual violation of sexual boundaries; not an act of caring, love, or pleasure; sexual violation of trust" [10].3

The Chrysalis Collective defines Sexual Assault as "any unwanted physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual violation of sexual boundaries; can range from sexual contact to sex." In an effort to meet the needs of survivors as well as to expand the forms of accountability The Chrysalis Collective also gives a usable definition of consent: "An understandable exchange of affirmative words and actions regarding sexual activity; agreement, approval, or permission that is informed and freely and actively given without physical force, manipulation, stress, or fear" [10].

The CDC's 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey [4] found that 22% of Black women, 18.8% of non-Hispanic White women, and 14.6% of Hispanic women had experienced rape at some point in their lives. They also found that one-quarter of American Indian or Alaska Native women (27.9%) and 1 in 3 multiracial, non-Hispanic women reported having been raped in their lifetime.

Both female and male survivors of sexual violence reported predominately male perpetrators. It has been found that if the word "rape" is not used but rather the behaviors legally constituting rape or attempted rape described, perpetrators will self-identify. Another national survey found that 24.5% of college men "admitted since the age of 14 that they had been sexually aggressive towards a woman" with 7.8% reporting engaging in behaviors that legally constitute rape or attempted rape, and the remaining 16.7% reporting other forms of sexually coercive actions [19].

Child maltreatment

Any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g. clergy, coach teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat to a child. According to the CDC, 681,000 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment in 2011, with 1,570 children dying as a result of abuse and neglect in that year [9].

Elder abuse

Elder abuse includes several types of violence that occur among those ages 60 and older. The violence usually occurs at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts, and can include physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, abandonment, financial, and healthcare fraud and abuse. In a 2008 study, 1 in 10 elders reported experiencing one or more types of abuse or neglect [1].

Community violence

Consists of interpersonal and community violence associated primarily with firearms and gang activity. Not only does this form of violence impact perpetrator and victim, but also associates/family/community members who may also suffer from exposure to acts of interpersonal violence committed by individuals. It also affects community members as it erodes their sense of safety, keeps them from mentally and physically healthy activities outdoors, and isolates residents from their neighbors.

During 2009–2010, homicide was the 15th leading cause of death (all ages) in the United States and the second leading cause among persons aged 10–19 years; a firearm injury was the underlying cause in 68% of all homicides and in 83% of homicides among youths [8]. Studies have shown that African American youth are more at risk for exposure to community violence than any other population in the United States [2; 12; 16] and homicide is the leading cause of death among African American youth ages 15-24 (CDC, 2010). In the city of Chicago, one study found that 25% of African American children reported witnessing a shooting, and 29% reported witnessing a stabbing; in 2010, 1,109 school-aged youth in Chicago were shot, and 216 of those were killed [18, 17].

Health care violence

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Related Topics

This page is part of the Health effects of violence project.

See also:

1. Acierno R., Hernandez M. A., Amstadter A. B., Resnick H. S., Steve K., Muzzy W., Kilpatrick D. G. (2010). Prevalence and Correlates of Emotional, Physical, Sexual, and Financial Abuse and Potential Neglect in the United States: The National Elder Mistreatment Study. American Journal of Public Health 100, pp. 292–297.
2. Aisenberg, E., & Herrenkohl, T. (2008). Community violence in context risk and resilience in children and families. Journal of interpersonal violence, 23(3), pp. 296-315.
3. American Association of Suicidology (2012). LGBT youth and suicide fact sheet. Washington, DC: American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved January 16, 2014 from
4. Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011) The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
5. Bohner, G., Eyssel, F., Pina, A., Siebler, F., & Viki, G. T. (2009). Rape myth acceptance: Cognitive, affective, and behavioural effects of beliefs that blame the victim and exonerate the perpetrator. In Horvath M. (Ed.) and Brown, J. (Ed.). Rape: Challenging contemporary thinking (pp. 17-45). Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Suicide facts at a glance fact sheet. CDC: Violence Prevention Home Page. Atlanta, GA: CDC. Retrieved January 16, 2014 from
8. CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2014 from
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Understanding child maltreatment fact sheet. CDC: Violence Prevention Home Page. Atlanta, GA: CDC. Retrieved January 16, 2014 from
10. Chen, C., Dulani, J., Piepzna-Samarasinha, L.L., & Smith, A. (eds.). (2011). The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.
11. Dahlberg L. L., Krug E. G. (2002). Violence: a global public health problem. In: Krug E. G. (Ed.), Dahlberg L. L. (Ed.), Mercy J. A. (Ed.), Zwi A. B. (Ed.), Lozano R. (Ed.), World report on violence and health (pp. 1-21). Geneva (Switzerland): World Health Organization.
12. Garbarino, J., Hammond, W. R., Mercy, J., & Yung, B. R. (2004). Community violence and children: Preventing exposure and reducing harm. In Maton, K. (Ed.), Schellenbach, C. (Ed.), Leadbeater, B. (Ed.), & Solarz, A. (Ed.), Investing in children, youth, families, and communities: Strengths-based public policies (pp. need page #s). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
13. Lorde, A. (1988). A burst of light: essays. Ann Arbor: Firebrand Books.
14. Richie, B. (2012). Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation. New York: New York University Press.
15. Sokoloff, N. J., & Dupont, I. (2005). Domestic violence at the intersections of race, class, and gender: challenges and contributions to understanding violence against marginalized women in diverse communities. Violence against women, 11(1), 38-64.
16. Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N., & Fink, A. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association, 290(5), 603-611.
17. Thomas, A., Carey, D., Prewitt, K., Romero, E., Richards, M., and Velsor-Friedrich, B. (2012). African American Youth and Exposure to Community Violence: Supporting Change from the Inside. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, Vol. 4, 54-68
18. Vosin, D., Bird, J., Hardestry, M., and Shi Shiu, C. (2010). African American Adolescents Living and Coping with Community Violence on Chicago's Southside. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 36, 12: 2483-2498
19. White, J. W., Kadlec, K. M., & Sechrist, S. (2006). Adolescent sexual aggression within heterosexual relationships. In Barbaree, H. E. (Ed.) and Marshall, W. L. (Ed.). The juvenile sex offender (2nd ed., pp. 128-147). New York: Guilford Press.
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