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Special Session Domestic Violence Courts: Enhanced Advocacy and Interventions, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2002
116 pages
Through discussing a special session of domestic violence courts, this report describes women’s experiences with enhanced services and advocacy.
Focusing on women’s experiences with enhanced domestic violence services and advocacy, this report discusses a special session of domestic violence courts. Following a thorough literature review concerning the role of the criminal legal system in responding to and preventing domestic violence, the author describes the scope and methodology of this research. Using in-depth interviews conducted with 12 specialized community–based family violence victim advocates working at 3 special session courts, data from an automated family violence victim service record, and interviews with 60 women whose current and/or former partners had been arrested for domestic violence and abuse, the author obtained and coded data in order to assess women’s responses to family violence services and advocacy. After characterizing the women interviewed as 42 percent African-American, 37 percent Caucasian, and 18 percent Latina, the author presents the findings of this research, arguing that “being heard” is the most important issue to women in cases of domestic abuse. This report also finds that police and advocates are important elements in women’s positive experiences of legal system interventions. After stating that women’s decisions are strongly influenced by their concerns for the needs of their children, the author contends that this research found that many women interviewed did not consider domestic violence to be the most important issue with which they were faced. Additional findings indicate that women’s assessment of their risks often changed during the time period in which the domestic violence case was argued in court, that language and culture contributed to differences in the experiences of Latina victims of domestic abuse, and that many women did not want to end the relationship with their partners, although they wanted abuse to end. The author also discusses that a majority of women interviewed had placed calls to the police at the time of a domestic violence incident and did not regret so doing. Following a discussion of negative and positive aspects of the court experience, the author concludes that the use of independent advocates provides important support to victims of domestic abuse and that future research needs to further investigate issues of race and ethnicity in regards to the court processes.

Date Published: October 1, 2002