This study elicited information from female victims of domestic violence regarding what they expect the police to do when they call for assistance during an abusive incident; the study also examined whether there was an association between the women's desire for formal intervention and subsequent victimization and offender aggression.
The study was conducted in Charlotte, NC, as part of the multisite spouse abuse studies undertaken by the National Institute of Justice. To provide an acceptable degree of homogeneity within the sample, the study focused only on female victims and male offenders with a current or previous marital or cohabiting relationship. Study cases were further limited to those in which both victims and police had discretion over their actions, and for which police were empowered but not required to make an on-the-scene arrest. A total of 682 cases that involved 646 different couples met the criteria for inclusion in the study during the 99-week study period. A total of 419 of the female victims were interviewed. Findings indicate that the factors which influence the victims' desire for arrest were to a large extent similar to the criteria used by the criminal justice system for offender processing. These included a focus on the seriousness of the current offense and on the prior behavior of the offender, as measured both by victim reported abuse and the offender's prior arrest record. Two other factors that influenced the victim's preference for arrest were race and socioeconomic status. Black women were more likely than white women to want arrest, as were victims from the lower socioeconomic classes. Further, the study found that victims that wanted the offenders arrested were consistently more likely to suffer subsequent abuse than victims who did not prefer arrest. Prior victim abuse was significantly predictive of subsequent victim reported abuse, and prior offender arrest was significantly predictive of subsequent offender arrest. Although the debate continues over whether arrest has a deterrent or an escalation effect in domestic violence cases, this study indicates that victims may have insight and information that is of importance in predicting future danger. 4 tables, 10 notes, and 50 references
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