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Research on the Incidence, Prevalence, and Impact of Trauma

Epidemiological research studies have measured the incidence and prevalence of violence and trauma in various populations, and findings of these studies confirm what those working in the domestic violence field have long known: that women and children in the United States face a high level of social and interpersonal violence.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) clearly documents the high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault experienced by women in the United States, as well as the traumatic health and mental health effects of gender-based violence, and the fact that the majority of victimization begins early in life.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, the largest epidemiological study ever done in the United States, has documented the high rates of childhood adversity experienced by adults in this country as well as the strong relationships between childhood trauma and a range of consequences in adulthood, including health and mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, and a higher risk of experiencing abuse in adulthood, including domestic violence. This study also demonstrates that many people have multiple types of traumatic experiences, and that the impact of trauma is cumulative: the more types of trauma experienced, the higher the risk of more serious consequences. At the same time, many factors can help to mitigate these effects, including a person’s resiliencies and strengths as well as access to social supports.

Learning about the cumulative impact of trauma within a framework that recognizes strengths and resiliency can help survivors to make sense of the ways they have been affected and to recognize the strengths and skills it took to survive their experiences.

Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)
This website presents the NISVS data in a number of different formats. The study not only highlights the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in the United States but also the differential impact on women, including significantly higher rates of fearfulness, PTSD, concerns for safety, injury, and need for DV advocacy services.

National Center for Children Exposed to Violence
This website, hosted by the Yale Child Study Center, provides statistics on the number of children who witness domestic violence every year, the impact of witnessing DV, and strategies for effective response. It includes similar information on other types of violence children experience including community violence, school violence and media violence. It also includes a list of relevant books and journal articles.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study & Website
This website provides basic information about the ACE study, the largest epidemiological study ever done in the United States. The ACE study has documented extremely strong relationships between childhood trauma and a whole range of consequences in adulthood, including health conditions, mental health and substance abuse disorders, a higher risk of experiencing trauma and abuse including domestic violence, and premature death. The website provides a tool to calculate your ACE score in six languages; frequently asked questions about the ACE study; and contact information for potential speakers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website, ACE Study Page
This website provides information on the major findings of the ACE study, including prevalence data in three major ACE categories (abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction), and demographic information on ACE study participants. It also includes a list of peer-reviewed journal articles based on ACE study findings organized by subject, including a section on interpersonal violence.