09/24/2014 02:01 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST

Domestic violence in the US: Statistics still alarming despite big decline 20 years ago

For weeks, amid the allegations involving several NFL players, domestic violence has been the focus of intense national attention. Does the turmoil reflect a worsening epidemic of domestic violence, or has the U.S. in fact made great strides to curtail it? The answer is complicated.

On one hand, domestic violence committed by intimate partners — current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — has declined by more than 60 per cent since the mid-1990s, according to Justice Department figures.

Yet that dramatic decrease has largely stalled, with the numbers stabilizing at a level that appalls people in the prevention field. The latest federal figures for "serious" intimate partner violence — sexual assault or aggravated physical assault — showed 360,820 such incidents in 2013, or roughly 1,000 per day.