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Chapter 5 discussion board:

At the end of each chapter, there are discussion questions. Students will need to choose two discussion questions to answer. As a way to interact with other students, you will need to respond to two other students’ responses. Students will need to answer the questions no later than Wednesday at 11:59 pm to give other students time to respond. Discussion question responses are due at the end of the week on Sunday at 11:59 pm.

Here are the questions from chapter 5 to choose from:

1. You read about the concerns with call screening by both victims and the police. The chapter also addressed the need to consider the totality of the police job rather than take any given crime problem and give disproportionate attention to it (often driven by political or perhaps liability considerations). What policy recommendations would you suggest and why?

2. As you hopefully noticed when reading the MDVE and the Replication Studies, the policy implications remain unclear. First, for those of you interested in the validity (and usefulness) of research, what variables should the researchers have examined rather than unemployment and racial status and why?

3. Should victims be given alternatives to criminal justice interventions for services or should they instead be a supplement?

4. Based on your readings of the research to date, what policy recommendations do you recommend to improve victim reporting? Who should we be encouraging them to report to?

Responding to Domestic Violence
5 Edition
To the millions who endure and survive and to those who protect and
Responding to Domestic Violence
The Integration of Criminal Justice and Human
5 Edition
Eve S. Buzawa
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Carl G. Buzawa
Evan D. Stark
Rutgers University–Newark
SAGE Publications, Inc.
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Copyright © 2017 by SAGE Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
ISBN 978-1-4833-6530-5
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Publisher: Jerry Westby
Editorial Assistant: Laura Kirkhuff
Production Editor: Libby Larson
Copy Editor: Catherine Forrest
Typesetter: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd.
Proofreader: Sally Jaskold
Indexer: Kathleen Paparchontis
Cover Designer: Alexa Turner
Marketing Manager: Terra Schultz
Brief Contents
1. Acknowledgments
2. Chapter 1 Introduction: The Role and Context of Agency Responses to
Domestic Violence
3. PART I. What Is Domestic Violence?
1. Chapter 2 The Nature and Extent of Domestic Violence
2. Chapter 3 Matters of History, Faith, and Society
3. Chapter 4 Theoretical Explanations for Domestic Violence
4. PART II. The Criminal Justice Response
1. Chapter 5 Selective Screening: Barriers to Intervention
2. Chapter 6 The Impetus for Change
3. Chapter 7 Policing Domestic Violence
4. Chapter 8 Prosecuting Domestic Violence: The Journey From a
Roadblock to a Change Agent
5. Chapter 9 The Role of Restraining Orders
6. Chapter 10 The Judicial Response
5. PART III. The Societal Response
1. Chapter 11 Mandated Institutional Change
2. Chapter 12 Community-Based and Court-Sponsored Diversions
3. Chapter 13 Domestic Violence, Health, and the Health System
4. Chapter 14 Domestic Violence, Children, and the Institutional
5. Chapter 15 Conclusion: Toward the Prevention of Domestic
Violence: Challenges and Opportunities
6. References
7. Index
8. About the Authors
Detailed Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction: The Role and Context of Agency Responses to
Domestic Violence
Chapter Overview
The Domestic Violence Revolution: Taking Stock
Is the Domestic Violence Revolution a Success?
The Challenges Before Us
Challenges to a Criminal Justice Approach
Should Criminal Justice Intervention Be Victim-Centered?
The Evolution of This Text
Organization of This Edition
PART I. What Is Domestic Violence?
Chapter 2 The Nature and Extent of Domestic Violence
Chapter Overview
The Nature and Extent of Domestic Violence
Official Domestic Violence Data Sources
Unofficial Survey Data
Controversies Over Definitions
Statutorily Defined Relationships
Domestic Violence Offenses
Stalking as Coercive Control
Who Are the Victims?
The Role of Gender
Same-Sex Domestic Violence
Marital Status
Socioeconomic Status
Racial and Ethnic Variations
The Impact of Domestic Violence
Psychological and Quality-of-Life Effects on Victims
Monetary Costs
Domestic Violence in the Workplace
The Impact on Children and Adolescents
The Specialized Problem of Stalking in Intimate Relationships
The Impact of Stalking
Discussion Questions
Chapter 3 Matters of History, Faith, and Society
Chapter Overview
Historic Attitudes on Domestic Violence
English Common Law and European History
Early American Strategies and Interventions
Enforcement in the Mid-1800s
The Continuing Importance of History
The Historical Pull Back
The Religious Basis for Abuse
Why Religion Remains Important
The Effect of Religion on Potential Batterers
The Effect of Religion on the Behavior of Domestic
Violence Victims
Domestic Violence Rates Among the Faithful
Can Religion Become Part of the Solution?
Do Societies Hold Different Standards for Some
Religious Communities?
The Social Critique Perspective on History and Religion
The Feminist Perspective
Coercive Control and Domestic Violence
Discussion Questions
Chapter 4 Theoretical Explanations for Domestic Violence
Chapter Overview
The Complexity of Analyzing Intimate Partner Abuse
Individual-Focused Theories of Violence
The Role and Use of Batterer Typologies
Classifying Batterers by Severity and Frequency of
Typing Batterers by Their Generality of Violence and
Who Is Most at Risk of Battering?
Biology and Abuse: Are Some Batterers “Pre-Wired” for
A Question of the Mind?
Biological- and Psychological-Based Fear and Anxiety
Can Psychology Explain Domestic Abuse?
Personality Disorders and Mental Illness
Anger Control and the Failure to Communicate
Low Self-Esteem
Conflict Resolution Capabilities and the Failure to
“Immature” Personality
Is Substance Abuse the Linkage Among Sociobiological,
Psychological, and Sociological Theories?
Are Certain Families Violent?
Social Control—Exchange of Violence
Family-Based Theories
The Violent Family
Learning Theory
Is Domestic Violence an Intergenerational Problem?
Sociodemographic Correlates of Violence and Underserved
Poverty and Unemployment
Ethnicity and Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence in the African American Community
Native Americans
Coercive Control
The Limits of Equating Partner Abuse With Domestic
The Theory of Coercive Control
The Technology of Coercive Control
The Continuum of Sexual Coercion
The Materiality of Control
Coercive Control and Risk of Fatality
Implications of Coercive Control for Changing Policy
and Practice
Discussion Questions
PART II. The Criminal Justice Response
Chapter 5 Selective Screening: Barriers to Intervention
Chapter Overview
Victim Case Screening
The Failure to Report Crime
Who Reports and Who Does Not
Why Has Victim Reporting Increased?
Does Social Class Affect the Decision to Report?
Bystander Screening
The Police Response
Police Screening
Why Police Did Not Historically Consider Domestic
Abuse “Real” Policing
Organizational Disincentives
Are Domestic Violence Calls Extraordinarily Dangerous
to the Police?
Structural Impediments to Police Action
The Classical Bias Against Arrest
Prosecutorial Screening Prior to Adjudication
Traditional Patterns of Nonintervention by Prosecutors
Prosecutorial Autonomy
The Reality of Budgetary Pressures
Prioritizing Prosecutorial Efforts to Targeted Offenses
The Impact of These Constraints on the Prosecutorial
Unique Factors Limiting Prosecutorial Effectiveness
Screening as a Result of Organizational Incentives
Case Attrition by Victims: Self-Doubts and the Complexity of
Victim Costs in Prosecution
The Impact of Victim-Initiated Attrition
A Judicial Annoyance: Handling Battling Families
Case Disposition by the Judiciary
The Decision to Access Victim Services
Discussion Questions
Chapter 6 The Impetus for Change
Chapter Overview
Political Pressure
The Role of Research in Promoting Change
Early Research
The Evolution of Research Supporting the Primacy of Arrest
Deterrence as a Rationale for Police Acton
The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment
Methodological Concerns of the MDVE
The Impact of the MDVE
Deterrence Theory and the MDVE
The Replication Studies
Omaha, Nebraska
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Charlotte, North Carolina
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Miami, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
A New Analysis of the Data
The Reaction to the Replication Studies
Legal Liability as an Agent for Change
Discussion Questions
Chapter 7 Policing Domestic Violence
Chapter Overview
How Do Police Decide Whether to Arrest?
Discretion to Arrest in Domestic Violence Cases
Key Situational and Incident Characteristics
Offender Absence When Police Arrive
Characterization of a Crime as a Misdemeanor or a
Who Called the Police?
Presence of Weapons
Incident Injuries
Presence of Children
Existence of a Formal Marital Relationship
Perceived Mitigating Circumstances
Victim-Specific Variables in the Arrest Decision
Victim Preferences
Victim Behavior and Demeanor
Victim Lifestyle
Police Perception of Violence as Part of Victim’s
Sex of the Victim and Offender: A Changing Story?
Increased Female Arrests
Offender-Specific Variables in the Decision to Arrest
Criminal History
Offender Behavior and Demeanor
Variations Within Police Departments
Gender Differences
Officer Age and Arrest
Officer Race
Organizational Priorities
Dedicated Domestic Violence Units and Arrests
Community Characteristics
Urban–Rural Variations
The Controversy Over Mandatory Arrest
Advantages for Victims
Societal Reasons Favoring Mandatory Arrest Practices
Controversies Regarding Mandatory Arrest
Have Increased Arrests Suppressed Domestic Violence?
The Costs and Unintended Consequences of Arrest
The “Widening Net” of Domestic Violence Arrest
Unanticipated Costs of Arrest to the Victim
Arrests and Minority Populations: A Special Case?
The Role of Victim Satisfaction in Reporting Revictimization
The Increase in Dual Arrests
The Violent Family and Dual Arrests
Is a Uniform Arrest Policy Justified in the Context of Victim
Victim Preferences
Does Failure to Follow Victim Arrest Preferences Deter
Future Reporting?
The Limitations of Police Arrests in Response to Stalking
Discussion Questions
Chapter 8 Prosecuting Domestic Violence: The Journey From a
Roadblock to a Change Agent
Chapter Overview
The Varied Reasons for Case Attrition
Case Attrition by Victims
Self-Doubts and the Complexity of Motivation: Changes
in Victim Attitudes During the Life Course of a Violent
Traditional Agency Attitudes Toward Prosecution and
Case Screening
The Role of Victim Behavior and Motivation in the
Decision to Prosecute
Prosecutorial Assessment of Offender Likely to
Organizational Factors Within Prosecutor’s Offices That
Affect Prosecution Decisions
Imposing Procedural Barriers: Why the System
Encouraged Victims to Abandon Prosecution
How Did Prosecutor Offices Initially Respond to New
Pro-Arrest Policies?
The Changing Prosecutorial Response
Have Prosecution Rates Actually Increased?
Victim Advocates
Potential Limits of Victim Advocates
The Impact of No-Drop Policies
Description of No-Drop Policies
Current Use of No-Drop Policies
Rationale for a No-Drop Policy
Protection of Children as a Rationale for No-Drop
Evidence That No-Drop Policies Might Be Effective
Limitations of No-Drop Policies
Can No-Drop Policies Be Justified Based on Superior
Does a No-Drop Policy Disempower Victims?
Victims Charged With Child Endangerment
The Likelihood of Conviction
Are There Effective Alternatives to Mandatory Prosecution?
Discussion Questions
Chapter 9 The Role of Restraining Orders
Chapter Overview
The Role of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
The Process of Obtaining Protective Orders
The Explosive Growth of Restraining Orders
The Early Use of Restraining Orders: The Massachusetts
Potential Advantages of Protective Orders
Why Protective Orders Are Not Always Granted
Are Restraining Orders Denied to Many Groups of
Domestic Violence Victims?
The Limitations of Protective Orders
Should Violations of Restraining Orders Be Judged by
Criminal Courts?
The California Case
North Carolina
When Will Women Use Restraining Orders?
Are Restraining Orders Effective?
Can Restraining Orders Be Misused?
The Complex Problem of Restraining Order Violation
Judicial Enforcement of Restraining Orders
Judicial Enforcement of Restraining Orders in the Face of
Police Misconduct
Enforcement of Restraining Orders After Gonzales
Is There a Best Practice for Obtaining and Enforcing
Restraining Orders?
More Potential Enhancements to Restraining Orders
Discussion Questions
Chapter 10 The Judicial Response
Chapter Overview
The Process of Measuring Judicial Change
The Judicial Role in Sentencing
Case Disposition at Trial: Variability in Judicial Sentencing
Why Does Such Variation Exist?
Sentencing Patterns for Domestic Compared With Non–
Domestic Violence Offenders
Domestic Violence Courts: The Focus on Victim Needs and
Offender Accountability
The Variety of Domestic Violence Courts
Types of Domestic Violence Courts
The Structure and Content of Domestic Violence Courts
The Goals of Domestic Violence Courts
What Factors Contribute to a Successful Domestic
Violence Court?
Domestic Violence Courts: A Long-Term Solution?
Can a Family Court Be Effective as a Domestic Violence
Innovations in New York State
Implications of the New York State Innovations
Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Their Impact
on Convictions
Discussion Questions
PART III. The Societal Response
Chapter 11 Mandated Institutional Change
Chapter Overview
State Domestic Violence–Related Laws
Early Changes in Laws
More Recent Statutory Amendments
Statutes and Policies Mandating or Preferring Arrest
Rationale for Mandating Police Arrest
Variations in Police Use of Mandatory Arrest
State Anti-Stalking and Cyberstalking Legislation
Initial Statutes
The Model Code Provisions and the Second Wave of
Anti-Stalking Statutes
Recent Trends in Stalking Laws
Are Anti-Stalking Statutes Constitutional?
Gaps in Current Laws
The Federal Legislative Response
Initial Efforts
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994
The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2000
The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2005
The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2013
Federal Efforts to Combat Stalking
The Affordable Care Act
Future Legislation
International Legal Reform and Human Rights
The Context for a Broader Response to Woman Abuse
Coercive Control in Europe
Broadening the Application of Human Rights Doctrine
Local Activism: Opuz v. Turkey
Addressing the Normative Gap
Turkey: An Example of Trickle-Down Reform
Reform in the UK: England and Wales
Do Organizational Policies Mediate the Impact of Mandatory
and Presumptive Arrest Statutes?
Impact of Policies
The Importance of Training
Current Training
Discussion Questions
Chapter 12 Community-Based and Court-Sponsored Diversions
Chapter Overview
Restorative Justice Approaches
Domestic Violence Mediation Programs
Advantages of Mediation
Does Mediation Actually Reduce Violence?
Limits of Mediation
When and How Should Pretrial Mediation Occur?
Family Group Conferencing and Peacemaking Circles
Batterer Intervention Programs
The Role of Batterer Intervention Programs in a
Divergent Offender Group
Program Characteristics
Alternatives to the Duluth Model
Advantages of Batterer Intervention Programs
Do Batterer Intervention Programs Work?
Program Completion as a Marker for Successful
When Should Batterer Intervention Programs Be Used?
Discussion Questions
Chapter 13 Domestic Violence, Health, and the Health System
Chapter Overview
The Role of Health Services
The Need for and Use of Health Services by Battered Women
The Significance of Abuse for Female Trauma
The Importance of Primary Care
The Minor Nature of the Injuries Caused by Abuse
The Markers of Partner Violence in the Health System
The Frequency of Abusive Assaults
The Duration of Abuse
The Sexual Nature of Partner Violence and Coercion
The Continuum of Sexual Coercion
The Secondary Consequences of Abuse
Medical Problems
Behavioral Problems
Mental Health Problems
Battered Woman Syndrome
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Explaining the Secondary Health Problems Associated
With Partner Abuse
Populations at Special Risk
Pregnant Women and Reproductive Coercion
Women With Disabilities
Defining Woman Battering in the Health Setting
Measuring Partner Abuse: Prevalence and Incidence
Medical Neglect
Reforming the Health System
The Major Challenges Ahead: Screening and Clinical
Violence Intervention
Barriers to Identification
Mandatory Reporting
Clinical Violence Intervention
Discussion Questions
Chapter 14 Domestic Violence, Children, and the Institutional
Chapter Overview
What About the Children?
Domestic Violence and Children’s Well-Being
Child Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse
Developmental Age: Special Risks to Infants and
Preschool Children
Adverse Childhood Experiences: Domestic Violence and
the Developing Brain
Indirect Effects of Exposure to Domestic Violence on
Diminished Capacity for Caretaking
Changes in Parenting
Changes in the Victimized Parent
Mothering Through Domestic Violence
Perpetrator’s Use of the Child as a Tool
Offender Interference in a Victim’s Parenting
The Limits of the Research and Future Direction
Putting Exposure in Context
The Child Welfare System
The Family Court Response
Domestic Violence in Custody Cases
The Significance of Custody Decisions for Victims and
The Family Court Response
The Three Planet Model
The Battered Mother’s Dilemma
The Future of Child Welfare and the Family Court Response
Discussion Questions
Chapter 15 Conclusion: Toward the Prevention of Domestic
Violence: Challenges and Opportunities
The Problem of High-Risk Offenders
The Use of Risk-Assessment Tools
Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Homicide
Using Risk Factors to Target Recurrent Domestic Violence
Are Several Risk Profiles Needed?
Implementing Risk Reduction Strategies
About the Authors
We would like to thank Brittany Hayes, Ph.D, Assistant Professsor, College
of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, for providing background
research on health and domestic violence.
The authors and SAGE also would like thank following reviewers:
Susan Calhoun-Stuber, Colorado State University–Pueblo
Laurie Drapela, Washington State University Vancouver
Cathy Harris, SUNY Oneonta
Jana L. Jasinski, University of Central Florida
Richarne Parkes White, MA, LPC, HSBCP
Dr. Rochelle Rowley, Emporia State University
J. J. Spurlin, Missouri Southern State University
1 Introduction The Role and Context of
Agency Responses to Domestic Violence
Chapter Overview
The movement to end domestic violence in the United States began more
than a century ago. In 1885, volunteers working with a coalition of women’s
organizations in Chicago started a “court watch” project designed to monitor
proceedings that involved female and child victims of abuse and rape. In
addition to providing legal aid and personal assistance, they also sent abused
women to a shelter run by the Women’s Club of Chicago, the first shelter of
its kind. The Chicago initiative was short-lived, however, and the idea of
using emergency housing as a first-line protection did not take hold until a
May afternoon in 1972 when the first call to a shelter was made to Women’s
Advocates in St. Paul, Minnesota. As recalled by Sharon Vaughan (2009), a
founder of the St. Paul program and a pioneer in the battered women’s
The call was . . . from Emergency Social Services. A worker said a
woman was at the St. Paul Greyhound bus station with a two-yearold child. To get a job, she had traveled 150 miles from Superior,
Wisconsin, with two dollars in her pocket. What were we expected
to do? Where would they stay after two days at the Grand Hotel?
One of the advocates borrowed a high chair and stroller and we
took them to the apartment that was our office. These were the first
residents we sheltered. The two-year-old destroyed the office in
one night because all the papers were tacked on low shelves held
up by bricks. His mother didn’t talk about being battered; she said
she wanted to go to secretarial school to make a life for her and her
son. She tried to get a place to live, but no one would rent to her
without a deposit, which she didn’t have. . . . After a couple of
weeks, she went back to Superior, and every Christmas for several
years sent a card thanking Women’s Advocates for being there and
enclosed $2.00, the amount she had when she came to town. (p. 3)
During the next 3 decades, the use of shelters for women escaping abusive
partners became widespread in the United States and in dozens of other
countries. The shelter movement helped to stimulate a revolution in the
societal response to domestic violence victims and offenders that has circled
the globe, stirring women from all walks of life; of all races, religions, and
ages; and in thousands of neighborhoods, to challenge men’s age-old
prerogative to hurt, demean, or otherwise subjugate their female partners
virtually at will. In addition to the proliferation of community-based services
for victims, the revolution consists of the three other major components that
are the focus of this text: (a) the criminalization of domestic violence; (b) the
mobilization of a range of legal, health, and social service resources to protect
abused women and their children and to arrest, sanction, and/or counsel
perpetrators; and (c) the development of a vast base of knowledge describing
virtually every facet of abuse and the societal response. By 2010, police in
the United States were arresting more than a million offenders for domestic
violence crimes annually, and shelters and related programs for battered
women in more than 2,000 communities were serving more than 3 million
women and children. Most of those arrested for domestic violence are male,
although a large number of women also are arrested for abusing male or
female partners and both partners are arrested in many cases. So-called dual
arrests are a controversial practice that has stimulated much debate.
The Domestic Violence Revolution: Taking Stock
At the heart of public reforms is an ambitious conceit: that violence in
intimate relationships can be significantly reduced or even ended if it is
treated as criminal behavior and punished accordingly. Given this goal, it is
not surprising that the societal response has rested so heavily on reforming
criminal justice and legal intervention with offenders and victims. From the
start, it was assumed that the primary responsibility for supporting individual
victims would be borne by domestic violence organizations and other
community-based services and that the role of public agencies like the police
and the courts was to provide the legal framework for this support and to
manage offenders through some combination of arrest, prosecution,
punishment, rehabilitation, and monitoring (i.e., much in the way that other
criminal populations are managed). An unfortunate side effect of the focus on
individual offenders and victims is that relatively little attention has been paid
to identifying and modifying the structural and cultural sources of abusive
behavior. Mapping the societal response to domestic violence requires that
we place the criminal justice and legal systems center stage. But it also means
recognizing the limits of addressing a major societal problem like abuse with
a criminal justice approach to individual wrongdoing.
Since the opening and diffusion of shelters, the policies, programs, and legal
landscape affecting victims and perpetrators of partner abuse have changed
dramatically. Reforms run the gamut from those designed to facilitate victim
access to services or to strengthen the criminal justice response to those
aimed at preventing future violence by rehabilitating offenders. A range of
new protections is available for victims from civil or criminal courts.
Conversely, a distinct domestic violence function has been identified in
numerous justice agencies and is increasingly being carried out by
specialized personnel. Examples include dedicated domestic violence
prosecutors, domestic violence courts, and domestic violence police units.
Complementary reforms have attempted to enhance the predictability and
consistency of the justice response by restricting discretion in decisions about
whether to arrest or prosecute offenders, making domestic violence a factor in
decisions regarding custody or divorce, integrating the criminal and family
court response to domestic violence by creating “consolidated” courts, and
constructing “one-stop” models of service delivery for victims. In hundreds
of communities, once perpetrators are arrested, they are offered counseling as
an alternative to jail through batterer intervention programs (BIPs). Several
thousand localities now host collaborative efforts to reduce or prevent abuse
in which community-based services such as shelters join with courts, law
enforcement, local businesses, child protection agencies, and a range of
health and other service organizations. The rationale for these reforms in the
United States is straightforward: Under the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, women assaulted by present or
former partners are entitled to the same protections as persons assaulted by
At the basis of these reforms is the hope that they will make the societal
response to domestic violence more effective. But the efficacy of new laws,
practices, or programs is hard to measure directly. Moreover, there is only a
tenuous link between whether a program is effective and whether it receives
institutional support. Legal and criminal justice agencies have a variety of
interests in new policies, programs, or practices other than whether they meet
the goals of protection and accountability. To win acceptance by the criminal
justice or legal systems, institutional reforms must meet a variety of internal
or system needs as well as satisfy public demands. These needs include
facilitating an agency’s capacity to attract resources or to add personnel or to
achieve greater public visibility and political support. Conversely, police and
other public agencies may continue to promote programs or policies that meet
these needs long after they have been proved ineffective. Understanding why
the police and other justice agencies respond to domestic violence as they do
means appreciating how the given practice converges with the agency’s
norms, values, and system needs as well as how it is received by the public or
affects the problem at hand.
This point is illustrated by the propensity for courts, police, or prosecution to
develop specialized functions when confronted with high-demand problems
like domestic violence. Examples of specialization in the domestic violence
field include consolidated domestic violence courts as well as police teams or
prosecutorial units dedicated to misdemeanor domestic violence cases. In
theory, these reforms benefit victims by standardizing and streamlining
arrest, processing, and case disposition. The assumption is that better
outcomes will result from case handling by more knowledgeable and
experienced agents. Regardless of whether this assumption is supported by
evaluation research, specialization is appealing because it serves the system
maintenance functions described earlier. For example, specialization helps
ration scarce resources by making expenditures on a problem predictable,
attracts new resources, adds status to routine functions by reframing them as
special, and helps protect other elements of the system from being
overwhelmed. In the past, the large proportion of police calls involving
domestic violence posed little threat to routine policing because these cases
could be dismissed as “just domestics.” If they reached the courts, they
received the lowest priority and were routinely dismissed. But as public
pressure raised the profile of this class of criminal behaviors and agencies
were held accountable for intervention, it became increasingly difficult to
respond appropriately while maintaining business as usual with respect to
other types of crime. Specialization has helped criminal justice and law
enforcement manage this problem, albeit with added costs for administration
and training. Thirty years ago, few justice officials would have openly
identified themselves with domestic violence cases. Today, being an expert in
this area has become an important route to promotion and professional
A major limit of services for domestic violence victims is that they are
delivered piecemeal, forcing victims to negotiate for needed resources at
multiple and often distal sites. Moreover, the lack of dialogue or coordination
among service providers often means that systems respond in very different
and even contradictory ways to victims and offenders. Common examples are
cases where the child welfare system threatens to place children in foster care
whose mothers continue contact with an abusive father while the custody
court threatens them with contempt if they deny the father access.
Furthermore, there is a growing appreciation that things can be made worse if
one element of the system improves its response, but others do not. For
instance, a victim’s risk of being seriously injured or killed may increase if
she is encouraged to seek a protection order but police and the court fail to
enforce it.
A recent round of programs has attempted to address the fragmentation and
lack of coordination of services in the field as well as the obvious obstacles to
access created when victims must traverse multiple portals to get the support
they need to be safe. Since the late 1990s, several thousand localities have
initiated a “coordinated community response,” where shelters and a range of
local agencies meet regularly to plan the local response. Meanwhile, more
than 60 communities have used federal funds to support “Family Justice
Centers,” a one-stop model of service delivery originally developed in
Alameda County, California. These centers bring crisis intervention together
in one building with medical and mental health services, legal assistance, law
enforcement, and often employment help as well. Prevention, too, has
commanded increased attention. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) funded 14 state coalitions to implement the Domestic
Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances
(DELTA) program, which focuses on reducing first-time perpetration by
addressing the risk factors associated with domestic violence and by
enhancing protective factors. A secondary effect of this initiative has been to
foster evidence-based strategic planning by the state coalitions as well as
closer working relationships with researchers.
The success of these efforts at coordination and planning, like the durability
of programmatic reform within agencies, depends on the larger political and
economic context as well as on a substantive commitment to end domestic
violence. In the current climate of austerity, an ideal response would involve
economies of scale, where agencies sustain cooperative work by eliminating
duplication, pooling resources, and sharing personnel. Far more often,
however, austerity fosters a much more short-sighted strategy in which
funders home in on sustaining traditional or basic services, local agencies
return to a self-protective stance of competing for scarce resources against
their erstwhile partners, and policymakers redraw their priorities in response
to political pressure. In this climate, cooperation and coordination are put off
as desirable in the long run, but unrealistic in the near future, and whatever
benefits they may have provided for victim groups can erode quickly.
Is the Domestic Violence Revolution a Success?
Never before has such an array of resources and interventions been brought
to bear on abuse in relationships or families. But are these interventions
By most conventional standards, the domestic violence revolution has been
an unqualified success. This is true whether we look at the amount of public
money directed at the problem, the degree to which politicians across a broad
spectrum have embraced its core imagery of male violence and female
victimization, the vast knowledge base that has accumulated about abuse, or
the degree to which law and criminal justice (and, to a lesser extent, health
and child welfare) have moved the heretofore low-status crime of domestic
violence to the top of their agenda. Indeed, it would be hard to find another
criminal activity in these last decades that has commanded anything like the
resources or manpower that have flowed to law enforcement on behalf of
abuse victims.
A persuasive case also could be made that the revolution has shifted the
normative climate, if ever so slightly, so that partner violence has become a
litmus test for the integrity of relationships. Male violence against women (as
well as against other men) continues to be a media staple, as the durability of
the James Bond, Rambo, Halloween, and Scream franchises illustrate. Even
when a slasher takes an equal-opportunity approach to his victims (as Freddie
Kruger does occasionally in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies) or violence
against women is treated ironically, as it was in the Scream trilogy or I Know
What You Did Last Summer and its sequel, woman-killing tends to be
protracted and sexualized in ways that the killing of men is not, pointing to
the underlying stereotypes perpetuated by this work (Boyle, 2005).
Moreover, rape and woman-killing remain key themes in other forms of mass
culture, most notably in video games (Dill, 2009) and in the brand of rap
known as “gangsta rap,” which peaked in the songs of Eminem (1999–2005;
Armstrong, 2009).
But if violence continues to compete with sexual conquest as the ultimate test
of manhood, male violence against women has increasingly had to share the
media stage with images of women as independent actors in their own right
who are equally capable of using force and of abusive men as purposeful,
obsessive, and cruel. Classic cinema depicted rape victims as viragos getting
their just deserts or as helpless victims of brutes who themselves could only
be punished by male heroes. Starting with Thelma & Louise (1991), however,
a series of films pictured women as fully capable of exacting revenge on their
assailants, usually by killing them. The idea that women can be both
victimized and heroic was dramatically presented in Sleeping with the Enemy,
a 1991 film in which the battered wife (Julia Roberts) is stalked by, but then
kills, her husband. Arguably, television has taken the lead in its willingness to
provide realistic portraits of abusive men and victimized women on
everything from the daytime soaps to evening dramas about hospitals (like
ER), courts (The Good Wife), police (CSI), or prosecutors (Law & Order).
This is a major change from the days when audiences were encouraged to
identify with an aggressive James Cagney squeezing a grapefruit in his
girlfriend’s face (Public Enemy, 1931) or even with Jackie Gleason’s
apparent ability to stop just short of abuse when Ralph Cramden famously
threatened to send his wife Alice “to the moon.” Of course, this was no
joking matter to millions of battered wives in the audience for The
Honeymooners. For much of the media, and presumably then for their
audience, violence against a wife or partner has become the social problem of
choice, a mixed blessing perhaps, but a direct reflection of its currency
among the general public.
Ironically, both the nadir and the zenith of the domestic violence revolution
occurred in close chronological proximity. If we had to pick a single event
that could be considered the nadir of the domestic violence revolution, it
might be the 1994 murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron
Goldman, and the 1995 trial—and acquittal—of O. J. Simpson for these
homicides. The zenith of the revolution also occurred in 1994, when
Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Violence Against Women
Act (VAWA). Previous legislation lacked the scope, ambition, or funding
levels of VAWA. Its passage—and its reauthorization in 2000 and 2005—
signaled a growing national consensus that domestic violence and rape
merited a nationally coordinated effort focused on safety for victims and
accountability for “batterers,” both to be achieved through some combination
of arrest, prosecution, counseling for offenders, and the delivery of a broad, if
poorly defined, range of community-based and traditional services. It was
assumed that states would use VAWA funding to expand training programs
for criminal justice personnel, refine criminal justice data collection and
processing, and build bridges between law enforcement and domestic
violence services. During the first 5 years of VAWA, more than $1.8 billion
was appropriated for grant programs, primarily in criminal justice, and
administered by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and
Human Services. Through the Services *Training*Officers* Prosecution
(STOP) Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program alone, from 1995
to 2000, in excess of $440 million was awarded to support 9,000 projects.
In the wake of VAWA’s passage, there was widespread optimism that a
broadly based criminal justice response would contain and significantly
reduce the incidence of domestic violence, if not prevent it altogether. As the
original authorization period for the VAWA came to a close, it was widely
assumed that the sheer quantity of the resources committed would have
positive effects. As a September 1999 report issued by then Senator Biden
stated, “we have successfully begun to change attitudes, perceptions, and
behaviors related to violence against women” (p. 5). The report also claimed
that, “[f]ive years after the Violence Against Women Act became law, it is
demonstrably true that the state of affairs that existed before its enactment has
changed for the better” (p. 9). In making his assessment, Senator Biden
highlighted “attitudes, perceptions[,]” and “behaviors related to violence
against women.” The implication was that violence against women had
dropped as a direct result of new policies and programs.
To some extent, official figures support Senator Biden’s optimism. The last
three decades have witnessed a decline in the most serious forms of partner
assault, including partner homicides, and for some groups this decline has
been dramatic. What is less clear is whether the changes are in the direction
we would expect if interventions were effective or are the result of changes in
policy or intervention. For example, other than arrest and prosecution, most
reforms have sought to enhance the safety of female victims, starting with
shelters. Interestingly, however, men rather than women have benefited most
from the declines in partner homicide, particularly Black men. Since the mid1970s, when the first shelters opened, the number of males killed by female
partners has dropped 70% (and an astounding 82% among Blacks). This is a
far greater drop than the overall drop in homicides during this period,
suggesting that domestic violence interventions may have contributed to the
decline. The number of women killed by partners also has dropped during
this period but by only 30% on average and a mere 5% for White women, the
largest group of victims. Indeed, until very recently, partner homicides
actually increased among women who have never married, which is a
substantial subgroup (Uniform Crime Reports, 2006).
It may seem strange that more men than women have been saved by new
programs and interventions designed to protect women. This positive, but
unintended, effect is explained by the different circumstances in which men
and women kill their partners. Abusive men tend to kill partners when they
fear that the partner will leave them or when the partner actually does so.
Since virtually all the new protections for women involve separation from an
abusive partner, these protections may threaten men’s control, causing some
abusers to escalate their violence. In this line of reasoning, women’s
continued vulnerability to male partner violence is the result of another fact,
that available protections tend to be short term and fragmented and that no
effective means has been found to deny abusive partners from accessing their
former victims, at least in the long term. By contrast, female partners tend to
kill men when they fear for their own or their children’s safety, although not
necessarily in self-defense. The same options that seem to intensify men’s
propensity for partner violence may defuse women’s feelings of having no
way out of their abusive relationship, making it less likely they will kill male
Measuring how our efforts have affected aggregate changes in domestic
violence is difficult. Some studies of individual interventions discussed in
this text show high success rates, particularly when a broad spectrum of
integrated services is at work. Even here, however, the declines documented
are not always uniform. Nor is it clear which element or which enhanced
program or effort explains reported declines. To illustrate, we return to
partner homicide. A retrospective study published in 2001 and sponsored by
the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assessed whether reductions in partner
homicide reported in 48 of the 50 largest US cities could be linked to the
changing societal response, specifically recently enacted amendments to state
statutes, enhanced local police and prosecution policies, legal advocacy
programs, or the prevalence of hotlines. The study attempted to link these
data during a 20-year time frame (1976–1996) that encompassed the period
before and after the enactment of these initiatives (Dugan, Nagin, &
Rosenfeld, 2001). The findings provided some support for optimistic
projections like vice president Biden’s. In slightly more than half of the
jurisdictions, an increase in available resources correlated with lower rates of
domestic homicide. Ironically, however, in the other jurisdictions, increased
resources were correlated with increased homicide rates, especially for
certain categories of victims. These findings persisted even after controlling
for population mix, demographic trends, and patterns of economic growth or
These examples illustrate a conservative theme that runs through this book:
that it is naive to assume that simply increasing the resources or personnel
dedicated to domestic violence—adding more dollars to policing or assigning
more police or prosecutors or judges to the problem—will lead automatically
to a decrease in domestic violence. Even if domestic violence of certain types
does decline, this may or may not be the result of the intervention. The
corollary of this caution is the importance of specificity: We are at a point in
the development of the field when we need to replace the heady
generalizations of its early days (such as “arrest works”) with carefully hewn,
scientifically grounded observations about which elements of which
interventions are effective for which subgroups. This text should help move
readers in this direction.
However effective some interventions may be, there can be no question that
violence against women remains a major problem affecting a significant
proportion of the female population and, by extension, the families and
communities in which these families live. Based on extrapolations from the
8,000 women questioned by the highly regarded National Violence against
Women Survey (NVAWS) conducted in 2006, approximately 25,677,735
women in the United States have been assaulted, raped, or stalked as adults,
while slightly fewer than 2 million women reported being abused in these
ways in the last year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). We know from other
research that the average duration of abusive relationships is between 5.5 and
7 years (Stark, 2007). This average includes the small proportion for which a
single assault is the sole act of abuse and the millions of abusive relationships
that last considerably longer than 7 years. Applying a simple formula of
prevalence from public health (P = I × D) generates a conservative estimate
that approximately 15.3 million women in the United States were in abusive
relationships in 2010. Whatever the trends in domestic violence, these
numbers should justify the important place of intervening and/or ending
domestic violence on the public agenda.
The Challenges Before Us
Domestic violence intervention is at a crossroads. Mounting evidence
suggests that criminal justice intervention alone has a limited effect on the
size and nature of the domestic violence problem and that the most effective
approaches involve cross-agency and cross-community alliances and
coordination. Despite this understanding, budgetary pressures are dashing
society’s capacity and perhaps also its willingness to fund alternatives to a
strict law-and-order approach. For example, California has long been
recognized as having one of the best programs for proactively addressing
social problems, including domestic violence. It was here that the Family
Justice Centers were first imagined and implemented. Throughout the state,
criminal justice agencies have practiced an integrated approach using
community resources to assist victims and to rehabilitate or control offenders.
These efforts are now seriously at risk. In 2009, to balance the state’s budget,
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the remaining $16 million of
financing for his state’s domestic violence programs. These cuts equated to
approximately $200,000 for each of the state’s 94 nonprofit programs
involved in sheltering victims. One result is that many programs must now
turn away victims in crisis, close transitional shelters, or simply put
vulnerable victims and their families in cheap hotels where they are unlikely
to get the resources or support they need to remain independent.
California’s attempts to balance its budget at the expense of domestic
violence services are extreme. But other states, such as New Jersey and
Illinois, also have struggled to keep domestic violence services open. The
irony is that cutbacks to established and relatively successful programs are
occurring on the 15th anniversary of the passage of VAWA.
Discrimination against domestic violence victims is another major challenge.
Until this practice was outlawed by the Health Care Reform Bill passed in
2010, seven states and the District of Columbia allowed insurance companies
to consider domestic violence as a preexisting condition and as a reason to
deny health coverage to women they believed to be victimized. As several
congressional representatives observed, this form of discrimination was the
equivalent of defining being female as a preexisting condition.
Domestic violence victims can lawfully leave a rental property without notice
and get top priority in public housing in Connecticut and several other states.
Still, the number of instances where families have been evicted from public
housing because of abuse is on the rise as is the adaptation of antiviolence
policies and their use against victims by local housing authorities.
Fundamental issues that many thought would have long been settled remain
on the table alongside the emergence of new questions and challenges that
concern the preferred method of intervention. An issue that seemed to be
settled in the early 1990s, the appropriate response to domestic violence and
the role of criminal justice intervention as part of this response, is once again
being hotly debated.
In the United States, the criminal justice system has spearheaded the response
to domestic violence. The dissemination of mandatory arrest and “no-drop”
prosecution in the l980s and early 1990s reflected a consensus that arrest and
prosecution were not merely proper but the preferred response in abuse cases.
Starting in the late 1990s, however, there was a growing sentiment in the
field that criminal justice intervention alone was not an adequate or even a
desirable approach to the problem (see, e.g., Mills, 1999, 2006). Even some
advocates warned that the reliance on arrest had gone too far, causing the
original emphasis on victim empowerment to wane. Today, even those who
support a lead role for criminal justice realize that the response by police,
prosecution, or criminal courts is merely one piece of society’s overall
reaction to domestic violence.
It is important to appreciate that the demand to provide equal protection to
victims of partner assault from advocates was not the only source of pressure
for criminal justice intervention in the United States. To the contrary, support
for a criminal justice response to domestic violence was also part of a longterm trend in the United States toward “law-and-order” approaches to social
problems. This trend is reflected in domestic funding priorities and in polling
data probing how US citizens believe the government should react to social
deviance. The propensity to rely on coercive legal powers to solve
multidimensional social problems is illustrated by the “war on drugs,” “gettough” policies on juvenile crime, and the treatment of drunk driving as a law
enforcement issue primarily. In each case, there is little evidence that
criminal justice intervention is particularly effective, especially when
compared with alternative prevention and treatment models. Of course, this
does not mean criminal justice intervention is not effective with domestic
violence. But it does remind us of a point we made earlier, that efficacy is not
the sole factor sustaining the current emphasis.
The overall approach to domestic violence also reflects broader societal
trends. One such trend is to seek official retribution for a range of acts that
were once considered private or outside the law because they occurred in
family life. Child abuse and homosexuality fall into this category as well as
domestic violence. A concurrent trend involves a shift in decision making in
these cases. In the past, it was assumed that justice was best served when
police, prosecutors, judges, or other professionals allocated resources or
sanctions based on their review of individual circumstances. Today, however,
it is increasingly common to find these actors constrained by legislative
mandates in decisions that encompass whether to arrest and whom to
sentence and for how long they should be imprisoned and who should be
released. Interestingly, although there is a new political imperative to protect
victims and provide a forum where they can express their fear, hurt, or anger,
as Garland (2001) points out, “the crime victim now is a much more
representative character whose experience is taken to be common and
collective rather than individual and atypical” (p. 144). Thus, domestic
violence victims often are viewed as part of a generic group exhibiting typical
traits rather than as unique individuals who have been harmed in specific
ways by identifiable offenders.
Several other basic questions that were first raised in the 1980s have still not
been answered definitively, including when police should arrest offenders,
the conditions under which prosecutors should charge or refuse to drop cases,
and when and how judges should sentence offenders rather than send them to
counseling. Even so, our understanding of domestic violence has been
considerably advanced by recently developed typologies of offenders and by
a deeper appreciation for the range of tactics deployed by offenders, many of
which have yet to be incorporated into criminal law. The most popular of
these typologies was developed by sociologist Michael Johnson (1995, 2008).
Johnson set out to reconcile discrepancies between population-based surveys
and point-of-service data drawn from courts, arrest statistics, and shelters.
Where the former reported high rates of perpetration by female partners as
well as of mutual abuse, the latter left a consistent picture of domestic
violence as a crime committed largely by men. Johnson argued that the
discrepant findings reflected two different general types of abuse. The first
type of abuse he described was “common” or “situational” couple violence
and was largely limited to physical assault and emotional abuse. The second
involved a range of control tactics in addition to physical assault. He termed
the latter behavioral dynamic “intimate terrorism.” Either or both partners
might engage in situational violence, although women were more likely to
sustain injuries in these cases. But men were the primary perpetrators of
intimate terrorism, the type of abuse most likely to prompt help-seeking.
Johnson used the term “violent resistance” to characterize situations where
victims used force in response to a partner who was violent and controlling
and termed situations where both partners were violent and controlling
“mutual violent control.”
A similar distinction was offered by Evan Stark (2007). Stark subdivided
situational couple violence into two separate, but occasionally overlapping,
dynamics, one of which he termed “fights” and the other “partner assaults.”
For Stark, assaults are distinguished from fights by the intent for which force
is employed (to instill fear, hurt, control, and dominate a partner rather than
to express anger or resolve differences, for example) and the perception of
victimization by the targeted party. Although fights may come to police
attention as a form of domestic violence, Stark does not consider them a type
of abuse for which domestic violence intervention is properly applied. Stark
used “coercive control” rather than intimate terrorism to describe the use of
multiple tactics (such as intimidation, isolation, and control) alongside
physical assault, and argued that coercive control may exist even in the
absence of physical assault. Like Johnson, Stark contended that coercive
control was a tactic used by male offenders primarily, largely because they
played off existing sexual inequalities. But he placed a greater emphasis than
Johnson on the structural deprivations that partners use to establish control
(such as taking a partner’s money or depriving her of access to transportation
or communication). Several other typologies are reviewed in this book.
Suffice it to say that much empirical work must be done before we can
determine the utility and applicability of these categories or whether
subdividing domestic violence in these ways moves us toward or away from
more definitive and nuanced interventions. In any case, the work on
typologies introduces an argument we will make in the subsequent
discussion, that a straightforward equation of partner abuse with physical
violence may not accurately reflect the dynamics in many, perhaps most,
abusive relationships or fully capture the harms inflicted or the motivation
that causes victims to call police or seek other types of assistance.
We have many more clues today than we did 30 years ago about which facets
of our response are most helpful. We believe that literally thousands of
women, men, and children owe the fact that they are alive to the
overwhelming shift in legal reforms in this field and the improved
responsiveness of criminal justice agencies, the availability of shelters, and
shifts in the response by health care and social service agencies. There is now
a broad spectrum of innovative programs to protect, assist, or otherwise
support abused women and their children. Unfortunately, these programs are
not universally available and most remain vulnerable to the vagaries of local,
state, and federal budgets.
Challenges to a Criminal Justice Approach
An important question we address in this book is what the impact has been of
relying so heavily on criminal justice intervention to limit domestic violence.
Part of the answer involves changes in rates of partner abuse as a result of
criminal justice intervention, an issue to which we give considerable
attention. But equally important is how this emphasis has shaped societal
perceptions of the problem, including the willingness of individuals to accept
responsibility for addressing abuse in their own lives and communities or for
supporting local efforts at mitigation or prevention. Does the view of
domestic violence as a crime make it more or less likely that hospital patients
will discuss it with their health providers, for instance? A related issue
involves how the primacy of criminal justice affects the decision of other
public or community-based institutions to intervene. Are health providers or
child welfare workers likely to make domestic violence a priority if they
believe it falls solely in the province of criminal justice or that they may be
called as witnesses in abuse cases?
Relegating domestic violence to the criminal justice and legal system also has
another unintended effect with far-reaching implications for intervention.
Filtering the societal response to domestic violence through the criminal
justice system reinforces a widespread proclivity to equate partner abuse with
discrete assaults and then to measure the seriousness of these assaults by the
level of injury inflicted. This occurs because violence falls squarely in the
comfort zone of policing and because prosecution and the criminal courts
function best when they target specific acts with tangible consequences.
Domestic violence statutes define partner abuse as a form of assault that is
only different from stranger assault because of the offender’s relationship to
the victim. Although few such statutes include the infliction of injury as part
of the definition of a domestic violence crime, as a practical matter, criminal
justice and legal resources often are rationed based on a crude calculus of
physical harms.
There are at least three problems with equating domestic violence with
discrete or injurious criminal assaults. The most obvious is that abuse is
repeated in most cases. Although this often is ascribed to recidivism, the
proportion of offenders who “repeat” is so high—much more than 90%
according to some estimates—that it may be both more accurate and more
useful to frame domestic violence as a chronic or ongoing behavioral pattern
that has more in common with a chronic health problem like diabetes or heart
disease than with an acute and time-limited problem like the flu. The
reconceptualization of domestic violence as ongoing may be hard to reconcile
with traditional models of crime that highlight isolated offenses. But it has
far-reaching implications for intervention. To continue our medical analogy,
imagine the costs as well as the problems created if physicians did a full
medical evaluation every time a patient with a diagnosis of heart disease
presented with one of the symptoms. By contrast, once the chronic nature of
the problem is recognized, intervention can be proactive as well as
comprehensive. At present, victims who repeatedly call the police may be
labeled as repeaters whose complaints can be taken less and less seriously as
abuse escalates. By contrast, if its ongoing nature is incorporated into the
definition of abuse, then continuing and even proactive contact with victims
would be viewed as a critical facet of help.
Serious injury and fatality are tragic outcomes of domestic violence. But a
second problem with the violent incident definition develops because most
abuse incidents are noninjurious and seem relatively minor from a criminal
justice or legal standpoint if observed in isolation. For many victims, the
significance of these violent acts may have less to do with the emergent
nature of a given incident than with the cumulative effect of multiple
incidents on their sense of autonomy and security in the world. Victims who
experience multiple, but low-level assaults may experience high levels of
entrapment and fear. But when justice professionals view these effects only
in relation to a given abuse incident (which is usually relatively minor), the
victim may seem to be exaggerating the situation and may not be taken
seriously. Victims also may minimize abuse if they equate “real” domestic
violence with an injurious assault.
A third problem with the violent incident definition develops because the
emphasis on discrete assaults can mask the co-occurrence of a range of other
harmful tactics that may compliment physical abuse in establishing one
partner’s domination of the other and compromise a victim’s capacity to
escape or resist abuse. These complimentary tactics also may be minimized
because the need for proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal justice
system tends to bring injurious violence to the fore rather than the
multifaceted behavior that comprises the abuse for victims and their children.
These points are meant to illustrate an important point in the book, that
however necessary or important, the criminal justice framework can be a very
blunt and inexact instrument to rely on to stop or prevent the ongoing pattern
of coercion and control in relationships.
Should Criminal Justice Intervention Be VictimCentered?
At the heart of the criminal justice response is the dichotomy between victim
and offender. Given the mission of criminal justice, including the belief by
key actors that the primary role of police and prosecution is to protect society
as a whole from crimes against the public order, it is hardly surprising that
the justice system has emphasized the identification, arrest, deterrence, and
rehabilitation of offenders. But there also has been immense pressure for the
system to assist and empower domestic violence victims. Whether to be
victim-centered and how to do this in a way that does not undermine other
goals of criminal justice presents another set of challenges addressed in the
In keeping with a tough-on-crime approach and deterrence-based theories of
offending and reoffending, the emphasis in criminal justice intervention has
been on tactical issues such as the certainty of apprehension, deterrence via
arrest, aggressive prosecution, forced attendance in batterer treatment
programs, and “target hardening” via issuance of restraining orders. The
general premise behind this emphasis is that crime is an offense against the
state, hence, that the interests of any given victim are secondary. The result is
that victim assistance has been relegated to an ancillary status in criminal
proceedings and that relatively little funding is available for direct victim
support. Unfortunately, this model fails to empower, or even protect, many
victims of domestic violence. As this book will explore in detail, victims
whose preferences are not followed, whether it be to arrest or not arrest, are
those who are most dissatisfied. The lack of sensitivity to a victim’s wishes
comes into play when a policy determination is made to process all offenders
through mandatory arrest and/or mandatory prosecution even if such a course
is not a victim’s preference or even, for a variety of reasons, is not objectively
in her best interests.
In this book, we argue that this mission-centric emphasis can be shortsighted
and that the criminal justice system should consider the impact of
intervention on individual victims. Unlike bank robbery or even stranger
assault where the crime is an isolated event against a victim who is relatively
anonymous, in “private” crimes such as domestic violence, victims
disproportionately bear a crime’s costs. Interestingly, the fact that the largest
burden of abuse falls on individual victims was an implicit rationale for
nonintervention early on. Some believed that partner violence was a private
matter and a byproduct of family conflicts that participants could and should
resolve informally. Some observers believed that because victims had entered
the abusive relationship voluntarily, they had “made their bed” and now
should “lie in it.” There also were positive rationales for noninterference
based on respect for the right of adult women to make their own decisions
about the sort of troubles they dealt with in their personal lives. Another
reason why listening to victim voices is imperative originates from the fact
that we have yet to find a foolproof way to deny an offender access to the
partner he victimized. The privilege of intimacy often affords offenders a
special knowledge of a victim’s whereabouts and vulnerabilities that is rarely
available in anonymous crimes. Since most offenders remain at large for
some period of time, even if they are eventually convicted and sent to jail or
receive relatively minor sanctions, arrest may not enhance victim safety, even
if it is followed by conviction and/or assignment to a BIP. It is a well-tested
adage of the advocacy movement that victims themselves are the best judge
of what keeps them safe. Finally, as we explain in the text, enormous burdens
often are placed on victims at each stage of criminal justice processing.
Following a victim’s wishes with respect to arrest or prosecution need not
mean doing nothing. Once victims initiate contact with the justice or court
system, they should have access to a range of supports and resources
regardless of whether an offender is arrested or prosecuted. In opposition to
our view, some respected researchers argue that, given the structural and
organizational capacities of justice agencies, a traditional crime-fighting
approach is preferable to a victim-centered, multipronged approach to
domestic violence. Jeffrey Fagan (1996), for example, argues that the
criminal justice system functions best when its primary focus is on the
detection, control, and punishment of offenders, batterers in this instance, and
it has minimal and only indirect involvement in providing services to victims
(i.e., battered women). His reasoning is that trying to factor in victim
experiences and rights or the rehabilitation of offenders conflicts with the
primary mission of these institutions and confounds their efficacy. Ironically,
this broad emphasis on serving victims as well as on punishing offenders can
inadvertently make it easier for these agencies to marginalize domestic cases
as they did in the past, turning case handling into low-status social work
rather than crime fighting.
Another challenge posed by the prevailing economy of offenders and victims
originates from the complexity and ambiguity of many abusive relationships.
For the criminal justice system to operate within statutory requirements,
crimes must have offenders and victims who can be clearly demarcated based
on objective criteria. This determination, in turn, implies that the status of the
persons involved is not only identifiable but also constant. Unfortunately,
research suggests that the offender–victim dichotomy is hard to sustain in a
significant proportion of abusive relationships. For example, in an
examination of 2,000 police reports during a 10-year period for all assaults
(not just domestic), researchers found that 18% to 20% (depending on the
year examined) of victims also had been seen by the criminal justice system
as offenders (Hotaling & Buzawa, 2001).
Because the law’s definition of a domestic violence assault relies so heavily
on violent acts, it is hard to distinguish abusive assaults that merit police
intervention from mere fights, where the use of force is typically noninjurious
and may reflect a maladaptive response to family conflicts rather than an
effort to coerce, control, or dominate a partner. Once persons are publicly
recognized as participants in violence, they may suffer the stigma associated
with being labeled. Everyone is familiar with the negative effects of being
labeled a “wife beater.” But being identified as an abuse victim also can have
a downside. However sympathetic the general public may be with persons
who have been victimized, in certain communities, being a victim may signal
that the particular person can be “had” (i.e., exploited) by others. Individuals
may resist the victim label because they associate it with weakness.
Moreover, a range of characteristics and behaviors may be associated in the
public’s mind with being a “worthy” victim, including a person’s race, age,
social class, looks, and propensity for self-assertion or aggression. Moreover,
once someone is a victim, he or she may be expected to enact these
stereotypes, which is a constraint that often extends to their perceived
eligibility for vital services (Wuest & Merritt-Gray, 1999).
The Evolution of This Text
This is the fifth edition of this text. Each edition has been updated and
revised, and in this edition, we go even further by complementing the
emphasis on criminal justice and law with chapters on how domestic violence
affects children and health and on the roles played by the health-care system,
child welfare organizations, and the family courts in the societal response. In
part, we have broadened the focus to reflect a growing realization that relying
so heavily on criminal justice and law may not have proved as effective as
was initially hoped.
Interestingly, each edition of this text has appeared at a watershed of sorts in
the history of the domestic violence revolution. We try to capture these
moments for our readers, particularly in terms of what they imply for the
criminal justice response to domestic violence, as well as to anticipate where
things are headed.
The first edition of this text was published in 1990, 3 years before the
historical signing of VAWA by President Clinton. In a very small way, the
goal of the text—to synthesize existing knowledge about the criminal justice
response—was the intellectual counterpart to the political goal of VAWA,
namely, to bring together the diverse strands of criminal justice intervention
under a single-policy umbrella.
The target audiences for the first edition of this text included students and
practitioners in criminal justice and other social sciences who had little prior
knowledge about domestic violence and those who had a substantive interest
in domestic violence but little sense of how the response by police and the
courts fit into the broader workings of the criminal justice system. The initial
focus solely on criminal justice reflected the overall societal emphasis in the
United States on defining domestic violence as a criminal assault involving
partners or other family members, the propensity to frame the participants as
offenders and victims, the widespread reliance on court orders to protect
victims and on police intervention, and primarily on arrest as the front-line
intervention that would complement the safety afforded by shelters. The
focus on criminal justice also reflected another reality: Starting with hearings
and a report by the US Commission on Civil Rights in 1978, the criminal
justice system also had borne the brunt of criticism for the inadequate societal
response to domestic violence.
By 1993, most localities had already adapted so-called mandatory arrest
policies, although debate about the wisdom and efficacy of these policies was
still widespread. Although some commentators questioned whether domestic
violence should be treated as a crime rather than as a problem in family
dynamics, the most trenchant criticism highlighted the threat these policies
posed to victim autonomy and police discretion and the possibility that
making arrest standard procedure might exacerbate racial bias in policing.
Many jurisdictions also had initiated BIPs, although criminal courts were not
yet relying on referrals to counseling as the preferred alternative to jail to
nearly the extent they are today. Although some research suggested these
programs could reduce subsequent violence, the quality of evaluations was
poor. Moreover, advocacy organizations remained skeptical about BIPs, both
because they questioned their efficacy in reducing violence and because they
worried that money spent to rehabilitate offenders might draw funds away
from front-line protections for victims, including shelters. In addition to
mandatory arrest, many cutting-edge issues of the day involved the sensitivity
of police, prosecutors, judges, and other front-line providers to victims, the
wisdom of so-called dedicated domestic violence prosecution, the interstate
enforcement of protection orders issued by civil or criminal courts, and
whether no-drop prosecution should be widely adapted.
The second edition, published in 1996, focused on the nature and extent of
the rapidly evolving criminal justice system and offered tentative
observations about the opportunities and limitations of the various
approaches being attempted at the time of its publication.
In the third edition, published in 2003, we noted a proliferation of research
evaluating the impact of innovative intervention strategies and the
unanticipated problems originating from aggressive intervention.
In the decade since the first edition was released, it also had become clear
that the efficacy of arrest, prosecution, and other components of the criminal
justice response depend on their interplay with other components of the
societal response, including health, child welfare, and the family courts. The
third edition presented the various elements of the criminal justice response
as if each could be evaluated in isolation (as if we could answer questions
like “Does arrest end violence?” solely by comparing the propensity for
continued violence among arrested offenders with offenders who are not
arrested, for instance). This was the dominant approach in the field, and we
felt we should reflect it. In reality, however, there are few communities in the
United States where arrest exists in a vacuum. Even if an individual offender
is not deterred by arrest, for instance, the police response may open a door to
a range of services for victims as well as to counseling for the batterer. Thus,
the question of whether arrest is an effective deterrent is increasingly
secondary to the assessment of which package of services is available, and
which supports are most likely to inhibit subsequent abuse. This is why the
fourth edition included chapters on key non–criminal justice responses by
BIPs, the child welfare system, family courts, and health-care agencies. We
covered both the strategies that guide intervention by these agencies and the
knowledge base that supports these interventions. We also identified the
limits of these interventions. Key issues in these chapters are the health
dimensions and consequences of adult and child victimization; the
institutional response by the health-care system, child welfare organizations,
and the family courts; and whether and how the harms caused by domestic
violence are ameliorated by these institutional responses. As with criminal
justice, an outstanding question is whether certain interventions do more
harm to victims than good. Examples include mandatory reporting of
domestic violence by health providers and the removal of children from
mothers who have been abused.
A primary goal of this edition, as with the earlier editions, is to assist the
reader in understanding the cultural, political, and organizational contexts
that shape how criminal justice agencies relate to one another as well as to
other societal agencies or institutions, historically and at the present time.
This edition explores the individual components of the criminal justice
system, how these components interact, and how these interactions affect
The current edition expands upon our growing understanding of the nature of
domestic violence and in particular, the importance of coercive control when
looking at its impact on victims and assessing the danger posed by offenders.
There also continues to be a proliferation of research examining the impact of
many innovations in our criminal justice system and societal response to
domestic violence. We now have much more knowledge about a diverse
range of interventions. Therefore, this edition substantially updates what we
know both in terms of current responses as well as their impact and
There also has been a growing awareness internationally of the problem of
domestic violence and many efforts are under way in response to its
recognition. Therefore, this edition will provide some discussion of these
efforts as they help make important comparisons with approaches taken in
North America.
We now find new policy issues emerging as well. The dramatic increase in
victims seeking criminal justice intervention seems to have leveled off at
about 55% (Truman & Morgan, 2014). The question remains as to whether
and how this percentage can be increased or whether victims prefer
alternative sources for intervention. In addition, we now find that our ability
to control the most serious violent offenders and those at risk for committing
homicide—not necessarily the same profile—remain a challenge. Many have
raised concerns about the growing reliance on risk assessment instruments
often used by overburdened criminal justice agencies that lack the resources
to address the massive influx of cases reaching their attention. This volume
provides a framework for understanding the progress we have made, as well
as the challenges we still face in helping the millions of victims in need of
Organization of This Edition
Most chapters have been substantially rewritten from the earlier editions. An
obvious exception is the chapter on the historical precedents. In accordance
with the sweeping changes undertaken by the criminal justice system, we
have significantly expanded our emphasis on current innovations made by the
criminal justice system as well as by health-care and social-service agencies.
We also have provided expanded coverage of the empirical research on the
impact of these interventions on victims as well as the efficacy of such
interventions with offenders. We include numerous case studies to show both
our successes and challenges as agencies and society strive for continued
The text is structurally organized as follows:
Chapter 2 explores why the definition of domestic abuse, perhaps more than
any criminal act, should encompass a very wide range of behaviors and apply
to all forms of intimacy, regardless of marital or living status. We will discuss
how, along with the direct impact of enforcement actions, case processing
requirements might have indirectly defined the parameters of “permissible”
contact by only criminalizing certain violent conduct, while conversely,
tacitly condoning harassment or other strategies of coercive control—actions
that in practice rarely result in arrest or prosecution. Thus, definitions are
important not merely for what they highlight, but also for the sorts of
behaviors, relationships, and consequences they throw into the shadows. We
also introduce a new source of data, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual
Violence Survey (NISVS), and explore how it helps inform us of the
incidence and prevalence of sexual violence, physical violence, and stalking
as well as variations in the general population.
Chapter 2 identifies gaps in the behaviors and relationships covered by
domestic violence criminal codes. We contrast the propensity for criminal
codes to define violence as individual acts, usually a physical assault or threat
of physical harm, with the growing realization by researchers that domestic
violence is more accurately conceptualized as including a range of behaviors
that coerce and control victims, many of which currently are not recognized
as criminal. These behaviors may entail isolating victims from resources or
supports; exploiting them financially, sexually, or emotionally; humiliating
them; intimidating them through a range of threatening behaviors; and using
various means to control them physically or psychologically. Although not
directly causing physical injury, by undermining a victim’s ability to resist or
escape abuse, these behaviors can greatly increase the likelihood that a victim
will be vulnerable to injury or even death. In this perspective, it is the pattern
of violent and abusive behavior within the relationship that constitutes
domestic violence rather than the individual acts of perpetrators. The
relationships included under these acts also vary from state to state,
sometimes only including married individuals, or alternatively, including
some or all of the following: current and past intimate partners, anyone living
in the same residence, children, siblings, any other family members, and any
relative. Nothing we say here or elsewhere in the text suggests ending or even
significantly limiting the role of criminal justice intervention. However, we
do suggest that criminal justice and law enforcement are unlikely to prevent
domestic violence or even revictimization unless their focus is clear and
consistent and they are parts of a comprehensive societal response.
Chapter 3 discusses the historical context of domestic violence. There have
been significant variations in how societies have responded to domestic
violence, starting with ancient peoples. But close inspection reveals these
responses to have revolved around a single theme, the right of the male
patriarch or his surrogate to use violence and other means to enforce his will
on the women and children under his control. Male domination in family or
intimate relationships was alternately sanctioned by culture, religion, law, or
some combination, making governmental support for abuse implicit, and
faced periodic challenges from liberal governments, social critics, or
movements to improve women’s lot. Nevertheless, the domestic violence
revolution that sets the stage for this book has been far and away the most
effective in eliciting reform.
Chapter 4 provides a number of theoretical frameworks currently used to
analyze the behavior of domestic violence offenders. The chapter posits that
actual acts of violence often are merely a part of an overall pattern of
behavior. We include an extensive discussion of coercive control and its
significance in understanding why a given offender may select a particular
means of coercion or control from all available options; the chronic nature of
most abuse; and the complexity of the dynamic that typically unfolds making
it unrealistic to hope that either party will simply stop or withdraw in the
moment. Conversely, any effective societal intervention must confront this
complexity either by complementing situational sanctions with a larger
strategy of prevention; by building from the bottom up, so to speak; or as part
of a coordinated community response in which criminal justice is deployed,
as needed, as part of a multi-institutional strategy designed to prevent
revictimization and reoffending. We see funding for prevention, criminal
justice intervention, and health and human services as parts of a piece rather
than as alternative policy initiatives.
Chapter 5 discusses the long history of societal neglect of this problem. Prior
to the 1970s, the statutory structure for handling domestic violence could
charitably be described as “benevolent neglect” of “family problems.” State
assistance for victims, if any, went to traditional social welfare agencies that
handled a variety of family problems, most of which were assumed to
originate from poverty, ignorance, or ill-breeding. Not only did these
agencies lack expertise in domestic violence, but also they often took the
occurrence of violence as an occasion to strengthen family bonds, in many
cases exacerbating women’s abuse. Managing violence against women was
considered beyond the purview of government; as a result, the failure of
government to assume responsibility for the safety of women and children in
their homes was not noticed. To the contrary, it was widely believed that
intervening to protect women and children except in the most egregious cases
could do incalculable harm to family structure and so, by extension, to
society as a whole.
Chapter 6 identifies the factors that changed the traditional criminal justice
response. The frequency of calls for help to police suggests that the general
public viewed domestic violence as a problem meriting state intervention.
Nevertheless, little was done to address it, let alone to control its incidence.
By the early 1970s, however, the climate had changed and a range of
publications, including research monographs, news articles, and advocacy
papers criticized justice agencies for their failure to deter future acts of
violence or respond to requests for assistance from victims. Changing the
criminal justice response proved much more difficult than criticizing it,
Reforms in the criminal justice system were elicited by a historically unique
constellation of the grassroots activists who formed the battered women’s
movement, policymakers across a broad political spectrum, and those law
professors Elizabeth Schneider (2000) called “feminist lawmakers.”
Resistance to change was deeply rooted in organizational culture. Police and
prosecution were committed to using their discretion to filter out cases that
lacked sufficient public purpose to merit a major expenditure of resources. In
effect, they had used this discretion historically to eliminate not only cases
where there was insufficient evidence for an arrest or conviction, but also
those considered unimportant or unworthy of their time. Domestic violence
fell squarely in this latter group, making police arrest-averse and instilling a
strong bias in favor of dismissal among prosecutors.
Chapter 7 homes in on a core issue, how the criminalization of domestic
violence led first to an emphasis on arrest as the solution to domestic violence
and, more recently, as a required initial response. The immediate effect of
such legislation was to give primary responsibility for the suppression of
ongoing domestic violence to the criminal justice system—the very
institution that had neglected the problem historically—and to do so by
constraining discretion in the decision to arrest, which is a core value in
policing. There also is an examination of the implementation and diverse
impact of the new pro-arrest statutes on police arrest practices. We argue that
some proponents of more aggressive intervention had a limited understanding
of how laws or policies that mandated a particular response would affect
victims, especially in those states or police departments that require officers
to make an arrest in cases of intimate partner violence. The chapter highlights
an unintended consequence of these policies: that many victims feel
disempowered by their inability to control the outcome of a call for police
assistance. To reiterate earlier points, some victims may feel that control over
the arrest decision provides bargaining room with an abusive partner or may
fear the financial consequences of arrest for themselves or their abusive
partner, particularly if he is unable to work or she must miss work to appear
in court. In addition, victims who choose to remain with offenders may find
their relationship harmed, whereas those leaving may find themselves in
greater danger from the offender. As a result, victim reporting may diminish,
and in such jurisdictions, a smaller population of victims may actually be
served than would be if police discretion is exercised in the victim’s interest.
This chapter also addresses another serious and unintended consequence of
current arrest policies, the dramatic increase in the arrest of women as well as
an increase in dual arrests (i.e., the arrest of both parties). In fact, the leveling
off in reporting to police may be a manifestation of this problem.
Chapter 8 focuses on the increasing attention and significance attributed to
the role of the prosecutor. As practitioners and policymakers realized that the
mere arrest of an offender was rarely sufficient to deter reoffending and/or
protect victims, the focus shifted to the practices and efficacy of prosecutors.
As with police, changed expectations for prosecutors have spurred attempts
to mandate aggressive prosecution in domestic violence cases. Although
legislative mandates with respect to prosecution are more problematic than
similar mandates for police, there has been a massive increase in the
proportion of cases prosecuted. However, victim cooperation continues to be
a key factor in determining whether prosecution is successful.
Even more than police, prosecutors have the capacity to provide key services
for victims beyond taking a case to trial. Specifically, they can help reduce
victim fear, provide a degree of ongoing protection, and facilitate access to
needed services, including advocacy. Many victims may be safer as the result
of prosecution. But most offenders continue their abuse, many are undeterred
by conviction, and some become even more violent. The solution is not to
forgo prosecution but to combine aggressive prosecution of high-risk
offenders with enhanced efforts to ensure victim safety. There is now
evidence that we can identify a subpopulation of low-risk offenders who are
unlikely to reoffend, regardless of whether the case is prosecuted. In these
instances, the best course from the standpoint of both the victim and society
may be to follow a victim’s preference and provide alternative strategies for
Chapter 9 discusses restraining orders and how civil courts work to address
elements of domestic violence that are not specified in criminal statutes.
There have been additional court cases impacting how such orders are
applied, as well as knowledge about their effectiveness. They can potentially
provide greater relief by expanding the application of other statutes not
expressly linked to domestic violence at the moment, including harassment or
stalking laws. In addition, the growing use of risk assessment instruments in
identifying the most dangerous offenders can help determine where such
orders should be more closely monitored. Finally, there is a discussion of
new strategies to enforce their effectiveness.
Chapter 10 covers the role of the judiciary. Determining the extent and
nature of judicial intervention depends on which of many conflicting goals is
considered paramount: retribution, rehabilitation, or satisfaction and safety of
the victim. Historically, the response fluctuated between punitive responses
to domestic violence—ensure arrest, prosecution, and conviction—and
violence suppression strategies to deter aggressive behavior without regard to
their punitive nature.
There have been tremendous changes in the judicial response, but the
diversity and inconsistency of these responses make it hard to generalize
across jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions prefer the traditional model, with
domestic violence cases heard in a criminal court setting where the offender
and victim can be clearly demarcated. Other jurisdictions favor a more
holistic approach, hearing all misdemeanor domestic violence cases in a
single venue or “domestic violence court,” for instance, or combining all
matters pertaining to the couple in a single proceeding, including family
matters—the “integrated” domestic violence court. This chapter explores
these alternative approaches, identifies their varied goals and procedures, and
highlights the need for research that explores their relative efficacy. Since the
last edition, we also have additional information on their effectiveness which
previously was lacking.
Chapter 11 focuses on the breadth of statutory changes since the 1970s,
including legislative reform in all 50 states. Although the new statutes
differed markedly in their scope and substance, they were designed to effect
profound structural changes in the response of government agencies to
domestic violence. Such changes have primarily been concentrated in three
areas: (a) the police response, (b) the handling of cases by prosecutors, and to
a lesser extent, (c) the judiciary methods of educating the public about the
problem and providing state funding for shelters and direct assistance to
victims. An additional set of reforms supported batterer intervention. More
recently, criminal codes have evolved to include stalking and harassment as
forms of abuse. These statutes move beyond the equation of domestic violent
with physical assault. But they are not as widely used as the original statutes,
often are inconsistent, and are set standards of proof that are difficult to meet.
Little is known about whether these statutes are an effective way to combat
abuse or even whether their use is an improvement over the statutes focused
only on violent incidents. We conclude this chapter by asking whether the
focus on identifying violent offenders, determining guilt, and using criminal
justice sanctions to prevent reoffending have clarified or obscured the larger
societal concerns about the control of domestic violence. Also new in this
edition is an extensive discussion of international efforts to address domestic
violence and what can be learned from their initiatives.
Chapter 12 focuses on the courts’ most common disposition, mandated
attendance at a BIP. Currently, most batterers attending these programs are
there as part of a judicial sentence. We assess the general efficacy of such
programs in reducing violence as well as their relative success with specific
types of offenders. Proponents of these programs continue to insist on their
general efficacy, at least in reducing repeat violence in the long term. Our
conclusion, however, is that these programs do not seem to deter many types
of offenders, specifically those who are chronic and severe batterers. In
response to these concerns, there is a growing trend to use these programs to
ensure offender accountability rather than to rehabilitate offenders. We assess
the wisdom of this approach.
Research continues to show that, no matter how innovative or enhanced,
serious domestic violence cannot be effectively addressed unless the criminal
justice system works in concert with the range of government, nonprofit, and
community-based agencies and programs. Chapters 13 and 14 address the
three other institutions that are central in the lives of domestic violence
victims: the health-care, child welfare, and family court systems.
It was by no means inevitable that the domestic violence revolution in the
United States would rely so heavily on the criminal justice system. In
countries where the welfare state is more developed than it is in the United
States—in England or Scotland, for instance—arrest is just one piece of a
complex web of services to which domestic violence victims have access. In
Scandinavia, support for victims plays a more important role than sanctioning
offenders. So it is worth asking why police were so central to the societal
response in the United States. One obvious reason is that, with the exception
of health crises, the police are the default agency contacted in the midst of an
emergency. A related factor is that their services are free and are available
24/7, which is an important fact since only a small proportion of family
assault calls occur on weekdays during “office hours” between 8:00 a.m. and
5:00 p.m. Also important is the nature of the crisis precipitated by domestic
violence. In the midst of an assault, many victims want police intervention:
Police are easy to contact, respond relatively quickly, make home visits, and
provide a highly visible authority figure to counter the raw power of the
abuser. These factors mean that the police often are the source of the family’s
contact with other local government agencies such as health care or child
welfare and that these agencies, in turn, often depend on police referrals for
their clientele.
Chapter 13 covers the health dimensions and consequences of domestic
violence, the subsequent utilization of health services by victims and related
costs, and the development of a health-care response. Starting in the late
1970s, a substantial body of research documented the significance of abuse
for women’s health. Early work focused on physical injury as the most
obvious symptom of abusive relationships, showing, for example, that
domestic violence was the leading cause of injury for which women sought
medical attention (Stark & Flitcraft, 1996). However, comparisons of health
utilization by battered and non-battered women also showed that victims
suffered disproportionately from a range of medical, behavioral, and mental
health problems in addition to injury, including most notably substance
abuse, attempted suicide, depression, and a range of disorders related to the
fear and entrapment established by abuse. Although the emphasis on injury
pointed toward intervention in hospital emergency rooms, a larger picture of
its health consequences suggested that domestic violence required clinical
violence intervention across the board, ranging from health to mental health
to public health services.
Many of the same factors that defined the police as first responders in
domestic violence cases disqualified other services, at least initially,
including health care. Although hospital emergency rooms are usually open
around the clock 7 days a week, they present victims with any number of
obstacles to access. These obstacles include long waits, the need for selftransport, ambiguity about where domestic violence ranks in relation to the
sorts of trauma for which emergency medicine was established, and limited
services for the uninsured or underinsured. Through much of the 1970s and
1980s, medical providers were much less likely to be aware of domestic
violence than the police and even more reluctant to become involved with
family problems. Thus, they responded symptomatically, providing
medication for pain but doing nothing to enhance women’s awareness or
Today, some, but by no means all, of the barriers to accessing health services
have been removed. Starting with the introduction of domestic violence into
professional education and training, medicine, nursing, psychology,
psychiatry, and social work have introduced a range of innovative programs
to identify and respond more appropriately to the adult and child victims of
abuse. Most agencies where these professionals work have adapted formal
protocols for recognizing, assessing, and providing services to victims as well
as for interfacing with the criminal justice system, shelters, and other service
agencies where appropriate. Still, major challenges to mounting an
appropriate health system response remain.
Chapter 14 starts with a remarkable fact: that domestic violence may be the
most prevalent context for child abuse and neglect. We explore the many
ways in which exposure to abuse can harm children as well as the resiliency
of battered mothers and their children in the face of abuse. Despite the
significant impact of domestic violence on children’s well-being, the child
welfare system and the family court—the two institutions most directly
charged with protecting children and their best interests—have hesitated to
get involved in partner abuse, in part because they have feared that doing so
would embroil them in political controversy. The traditional focus of child
welfare on women as mothers and its historical move away from criminal
justice toward counseling and parent education has left enormous ambiguity
about whether its function in these cases is to protect children by removing
them from the potential danger posed by abuse or to broaden its perspective
to encompass women’s safety as …
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