Intimate Partner Violence in the Military: an Investigation of Reporting Crimes to Law Enforcement Officials


Although awareness of intimate partner violence (IPV) has increased, acknowledging that American military members and their families are particularly vulnerable to these forms of violence has been relatively recent. While scholars have shown that victims of IPV are unlikely to report their victimizations to the police (Venema Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(5), 872–899, 2016), virtually no attempts have been made to explore reporting crimes to the police by those in the military and/or victimized by someone in the military. In this paper, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data from 1992 to 2016 were used to examine whether incidents of intimate partner violence were less likely to be reported to the police if either the victim and/or offender were active duty military personnel. To ascertain whether military status affected decisions to report for other violent crimes, models predicting the probability of reporting to the police for robbery victimizations were also examined. This research revealed that a military connection significantly decreased the likelihood of IPV being reported compared to the civilian population, however, military status had no effect on the likelihood of robbery victimizations being reported. Results support the contention that the military culture may reduce the likelihood that IPV victimizations will be reported to police compared to their civilian counterparts. Because this was not true for robbery victimizations, policies directed at reducing the reluctance of IPV victims to seek justice through law enforcement channels are needed along with continued efforts to prevent IPV in the military specifically, and within the nation generally.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Except for age, all variables were coded dichotomously,

  2. 2.

    The gender of the offender could not be included in IPV models because it was highly correlated with the gender of the victim. The vast majority of IPV victimizations against females were perpetrated by males. As a result, including both gender of the victim and offender in the same model produced multicollinearity.

  3. 3.

    Robbery victimizations perpetrated by multiple offenders that included both stranger and known offenders were coded as stranger.

  4. 4.

    This measurement of IPV did not include all forms of violence measured by the NCVS. Also, although it would have been ideal to examine police-reporting behavior of rape and sexual assault victimizations, there were too few cases that involved military personnel to compare in multivariate models.

  5. 5.

    Because our dependent variable is a dichotomy, displaying the percentage differentials across IV categories within a DV category is the appropriate statistical technique for examining bivariate relationships (Paternoster and Bachman 2018). This allows one to see the effect of the independent variable categories on the dependent variable (i.e. the percentage of victimizations reported to the police).


  1. Akers, C., & Kaukinen, C. (2009). The police reporting behavior of intimate partnerviolence victims. Journal of Family Violence, 24, 159–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bachman, R., & Coker, A. L. (1995). Police involvement in domestic violence: The interactive effects of victim injury, offender's history of violence, and race. Violence and victims, 10(2), 91.

  3. Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) (n.d.). Military & veteran IPV. Web.

  4. Baumer, E. P. (2002). Neighborhood disadvantage and police notification by victims of violence. Criminology, 40(3), 579–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Baumer, E. P., & Lauritsen, J. L. (2010). Reporting crime to the police, 1973-2005: Amultivariate analysis of long-term trends in the national crime survey (NCS) and national crime victimization survey (NCVS). Criminology, 48(1), 131–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bhandari, A., & Wagner, T. (2006). Self-reported utilization of health care services: Improving measurement and accuracy. Medical Care Research and Review, 63, 217–235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bosick, S. J., Rennison, C. M., Gover, A. R., & Dodge, M. (2012). Reporting violence to the police: Predictors through the life course. Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(6), 441–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2017). National crime victimization survey, 2016: Technical documentation. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1–61.

  9. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.). Data collection: National crime victimization survey (NCVS). Retrieved from Accessed June 2019.

  10. Campbell, J. C., Garza, M. A., Gielen, A. C., O’Campo, P., Kub, J., Dienemann, J., Jones, A. S., & Jafar, E. (2003). Intimate partner violence and abuse among active duty military women. Violence Against Women, 9(9), 1072–1092.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Center for Disease Control. (2014). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization – National intimate partner and sexual violence survey, United States, 2011. CDC, 1–18.

  12. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829–859.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV). (2003). Defense task force on domestic violence: Third year report. DTFDV, 1–211.

  14. Department of Defense. (2013). 2011 health related behaviors survey of active duty military personnel. DOD, 1–464.

  15. Department of Defense. (2017). Annual report on sexual assault in the military. DOD, 1–61.

  16. Dichter, M. E., Cerulli, C., & Bossarte, R. M. (2011). Intimate partner violence victimization among women veterans and associated heart health risks. Women's Health Issues, 21(4), 190–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Dunivin, K. O. (1994). Military culture: Change and continuity. Armed Forces & Society, 20(4), 531–547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Felson, R. B., Messner, S. F., & Hoskin, A. (1999). The victim-offender relationship and calling the police in assaults. Criminology, 37(4), 931–948.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Felson, R. B., Messner, S. F., Hoskin, A. W., & Deane, G. (2002). Reasons for reporting and not reporting domestic violence to the police. Criminology, 40(3), 617–648.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Governing. (2013). Military active duty personnel, Civilians by State. Web.

  21. Hollenshead, J., Dai, Y., Ragsdale, M., Massey, E., & Scott, R. (2006). Relationship between two types of help seeking behavior in domestic violence victims. Journal of Family Violence, 21(4), 271–279.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Jones, A. D. (2012). Intimate partner violence in military couples: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, 147–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kaukinen, C. (2004). The direct and conditional effects of race and the victim offender relationship. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 967–990.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Kimerling, R., Iverson, K. M., Dichter, M. E., Rodriguez, A. L., Wong, A., & Pavao, J. (2016). Prevalence of intimate partner violence among women veterans who utilize veterans health administration primary care. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 31(8), 888–894.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lauritsen, J. L., Owens, J. G., Planty, M., Rand, M. R., & Truman, J. L. (2012). Methods for counting high-frequency repeat victimizations in the National Crime Victimization Survey. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Marshall, A. D., Panuzio, J., & Taft, C. T. (2005). Intimate partner violence among military veterans and active duty servicemen. Clinical Psychology Review, 25, 862–876.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Neville, H. A., & Pugh, A. O. (1997). General and culture-specific factors influencing African american women's reporting patterns and perceived social support following sexual assault: An exploratory investigation. Violence Against Women, 3(4), 361–381.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Paternoster, R., & Bachman, R. (2018). Essentials for statistics for criminology and criminal justice. Inc: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Rentz, E. D., Martin, S. L., Gibbs, D. A., Clinton-Sherrod, M., Hardison, J., & Marshall, S. W. (2006). Family violence in the military: A review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 7(2), 93–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Sexual assault in the military: Prevention: Hearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 111th Cong. (Serial No. 111-17). (2009a). Retrieved from GPO’s federal digital system:

  31. Sexual assault in the military: Victim support and advocacy: Hearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 111th Cong. (Serial No. 111-4). (2009b). Retrieved from GPO’s Federal Digital System:

  32. Skogan, W. G. (1984). Reporting crimes to the police: The status of world research. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 21, 113–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. United States Government Accountability Office. (2010). Sustained leadership and oversight needed to improve DOD’s prevention and treatment of domestic abuse. GOA, 1–47.

  34. Venema, R. M. (2016). Police officer schema of sexual assault reports: Real rape, ambiguous cases, and false reports. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(5), 872–899.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Wilson, P. H. (2007). Defining military culture. Journal of Military History, 72(1), 11–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patricia Becker.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Becker, P., Bachman, R. Intimate Partner Violence in the Military: an Investigation of Reporting Crimes to Law Enforcement Officials. J Fam Viol 35, 315–324 (2020).

Download citation


  • Intimate partner violence
  • Police reporting
  • Military
  • Victimization