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Is the Legal System an Effective Solution to Domestic Violence?

Since then, cases of intimate partner violence against women have dropped by about 63 percent, from nearly 1.7 million in 1993 to around 628,000 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Violence against women by other family members has also dropped, to nearly 390,000 cases in 2019 from 529,000 in 1993.

But those figures — largely based on self-reported cases — paint an incomplete picture, said Leigh Goodmark, director of the Gender Violence Clinic at the University of Maryland’s law school. The downward trajectory of domestic violence has corresponded with the overall reduction of violent crime, which dropped by 65 percent between 1993 and 2019.

“We were putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the criminal legal response to intimate partner violence and, for that investment, it still got less of a drop than what was happening to other crime rates that weren’t receiving specific investments,” Ms. Goodmark said. “That’s a problem.”

In fact, since 2012, the number of domestic violence cases has stagnated rather than continued on its downward path, hovering between one million and 1.2 million cases. In 2018, cases topped 1.3 million, or about 20 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. that year, and cases of rape and sexual assault almost doubled from more than 430,000 in 2015 to more than 730,000 in 2018, making it one of the most violent years on record in the last decade.

Ms. Barnett, in her lawsuit, also lists the numerous ways in which Mr. LaBeouf emotionally and verbally abused her — yelling at her, isolating her from her friends and family, and berating her for disagreements over inconsequential matters — making clear that physical violence is just one dimension of abuse.

Psychological abuse — when aggressors exert crippling levels of control over victims — is a far more prevalent form of abuse, said Ruth Glenn, president and chief executive of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. About half of all women have experienced at least one act of psychological aggression, such as having their whereabouts monitored or receiving threats, by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” Ms. Barnett told The New York Times. She also acknowledged that despite having the economic means to escape, it was still tough to extricate herself because of the psychological torment.

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