This was an exploratory study designed to fill in the gaps in current knowledge about the characteristics of female victims of domestic partner violence who come to the attention of the police.
The study was conducted in a Boston suburb deemed by the researchers to be representative of the U.S. population in its demographic composition. Subjects for the study consisted of consecutive female victims who came to the attention of the police because of a telephone call or personal appearance at the police station for the purpose of requesting police intervention in a domestic violence incident that involved a partner. In addition to conducting a standard investigation of the women's complaints, the officers followed a research protocol that included multiple-choice questions that asked victims about past incidents that involved the abuser, the severity of the abuse, their level of fear, and expectations regarding the future. A total of 100 interviews were conducted with 95 adult female victims over the course of a year. Approximately half (53 percent) of the victims were living with the abuser at the time of the incident. One-fourth of the women were "very afraid" of their abuser, and another 6 percent were "fairly afraid." The most striking result, however, was the number of women (36 percent) who reported they were "not at all afraid" of the abuser. When adding the 12 percent of the victims who were "slightly afraid" of their abusers, this leads to the surprising result that nearly half of the sample reported having little or no fear of their abusers. Further, over one-third of the victims indicated that future abuse by the offender was "not at all likely," and another quarter reported that future violence was only "slightly likely." In sum, the study found that victims of domestic violence who come to the attention of the police vary greatly in their levels of fear of their abusers and expectations regarding future abuse. More needs to be learned about these victims, so as to develop appropriate police responses that are tailored to victims' needs. 5 tables, 2 figures, and 8 references
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