Domestic violence is more costly than warfare, in terms of both lives lost and dollars spent, according to a new report that says the issue is largely overlooked.
The study authors conclude that domestic abuse, perpetrated mostly against women and children, costs about $9.5 trillion dollars each year in lost economic output. That far surpasses the price tag for recent civil wars, estimated at an annual $170 billion, as well as for homicides unrelated to intimate partner violence, estimated at an annual $650 billion. Researchers arrived at those ballpark figures by attempting to estimate both tangible and intangible costs resulting from violence, like lost earnings, reduced economic activity, and health consequences.
The human cost is also greater. According to the researchers, roughly nine people are killed in domestic disputes for every one person who dies in a civil war. About 769 million women are the victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and 290 million children are subject to violence in their homes.
“Wars are only one form of violence and are very costly, but other forms are even more costly and don’t get as much attention,” Anke Hoeffler of Oxford University, one of the co-authors of the new report, told the Guardian. “There has been an over-concentration on the consequences of political violence and not enough on domestic violence. We need to think a lot harder about how we tackle these issues.”
Researchers say their new report represents the first attempt to estimate the global cost of violence. And they believe their findings should compel the international community to devote more resources to addressing domestic abuse.
“Despite its prevalence and apparently very large costs, the international development community has not yet conceptualized interpersonal or societal violence as a development problem that aid and other policy interventions should try to address in a systematic way,” the paper concludes. “There is a strong case that much more aid should be flowing to programs to address violent crime and abuse.”
The findings come on the heels of another recent report detailing the “shockingly” high levels of abuse and violence against children. That study, conducted by UNICEF, revealed that many children are growing up in a world where they assume that domestic violence is simply inevitable. For instance, half of all girls between the ages of 15 and 19 believe a man is “justified” in hitting his wife.
Issues of domestic violence have been dominating national headlines this week, thanks to the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to drop running back Ray Rice after a video emerged depicting him punching his then-fiancee until she fell unconscious. The renewed attention on the issue has led to somewhat of a larger conversation about how institutions should demonstrate they’re taking violence against women seriously, and top political leaders have recently weighed in. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have both said they think the Ravens did the right thing.
“The one regret I have is we call it domestic violence as if it’s a domesticated cat. It is the most vicious form of violence there is,” Biden, who was instrumental in passing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) two decades ago, told the Today Show this week. “This whole culture for so long has put the onus on the woman. What were you wearing? What did you say? What did you do to provoke? That is never the appropriate question.”