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Advocates for victims of domestic violence say the one good thing to come out of the Ray Rice scandal is more Americans are aware of just how big of a problem this is -- and it’s not limited to the NFL.
CBS Sports announcer James Brown touched on this in a 90-second monologue directed to all men during the Sept. 11 pregame broadcast of Thursday Night Football, which coincidentally featured Rice’s former team, the Baltimore Ravens, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown urged men to learn "what healthy, respectful manhood is all about" and to "give help or to get help, because our silence is deafening and deadly." Then he pulled out a stirring statistic.
"Consider this: According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners," Brown said. "That means that since the night Feb. 15 in Atlantic City (the night Ray Rice hit now-wife Janay Rice on the elevator) more than 600 women have died."
The figure is used across several outreach group websites, including Futures Without Violence, the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys, the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Experts say the claim is accurate.
While the veracity of crime statistics in general can be questioned due to underreporting by victims and mislabeling by the investigating officer, murder statistics are reliable, experts say.
The biggest repository for national crime statistics is the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, which is based on data collected from local law enforcement agencies.
Callie Rennison is a University of Colorado Denver public affairs professor who analyzes crime trends. Crunching federal figures, Rennison found 3.3 women died at the hands of their intimate partners per day in 2010. To get that figure, she divided the number of intimate partner homicides with female victims (1,192) by the number of days in the year. More than three days a day is alarmingly high, but it’s also down from a recent high of 4.2 deaths per day in 1993.
Rennison did not run a similar calculation for the most recent years available, 2011 and 2012, but the trend holds.
Of course, this is a daily average and not an exact representation of how many women are killed by their current or former partners.
"So strictly scientifically speaking, it is a risk to estimate how many people have been killed in domestic violence incidents since Feb. 15," said Mary Koss, University of Arizona public health professor. "However, doing so is not fundamentally wrong and crime experts do it frequently."
Because the number of male victims in intimate partner homicides is much lower, so too is the daily average. There were 305 of these deaths in 2010, which amounts to a daily average of 0.84.
James Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor, sliced the data differently for his own count of intimate partner homicides. He factored in unsolved homicide cases believed to have involved intimate partners. The result: slightly higher deaths per year.
Using his numbers,the daily average of female deaths was 3.84 in 2010, 3.61 in 2011, and 3.68 in 2012.
Brown could have been a touch more precise with his wording by saying "partners and former partners" instead of just "partners," but Rennison says that level of distinction is probably more important to academics.
"Generally when we talk in our field (about FBI or Bureau of Justice Statistics figures), we’re talking about current or former spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, and it can include same-sex partners as well," she said.
Brown implored the NFL community and beyond to consider a shocking statistic: "According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners."
He went on to estimate how many women have been killed by their partners since the day Rice attacked his now-wife in an elevator -- a practice experts said isn’t scientifically precise but is a common practice.
As for the three-deaths-a-day figure itself, experts said it is accurate. By some measures, the daily average is actually closer to four deaths.
There are some ways that Brown could have been more precise, but they do not obscure his point. So we rate his claim True.
Interview with Jennifer Gentile Long, AEquitas director, Sept. 15, 2014
Interview with Marsha Robertson, Futures Without Violence spokeswoman, Sept. 15, 2014
Interview with Elizabeth Maria Calhoun, James Brown’s spokesperson, Sept. 15, 2014
Interview with Callie Rennison, University of Colorado-Denver public affairs professor, Sept. 15, 2014
Interview with James Fox, Northeastern University Lipman Family professor of criminology, law and public policy, Sept. 15, 2014
Interview with Mary Koss, University of Arizona public health professor, Sept. 15, 2014
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