But even as they celebrate the progress, most analysts warn that more needs to be done to prevent such abuse, which encompasses recurring verbal, physical, psychological, and sexual mistreatment between partners of all ages and sexual orientations. Not enough analysis has been done to know the precise cause of the decrease, says Janet Lauritsen, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. Moreover, IPV rates have been stabilizing since 2001, a sign that it's not time to rest easy.
When Joan Meier, professor of clinical law at George Washington University, looks at the data, she can’t help but notice a certain time stamp: 1994. That’s the year the United States passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation that is now up for renewal in Congress.
“I’m willing to speculate [that] VAWA had a direct impact" on reducing intimate partner violence, says Ms. Meier, who also directs the university’s Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project. “Because of VAWA it became more widely understood that this violence is a crime and is unacceptable.”