Only 9 of the 46 police forces surveyed in England and Wales had a specific policy on police response to marital violence. Initiatives in other countries indicate that a strong policy statement from the chief officer or other authority is essential for an effective police response to domestic violence. In the absence of such a formal policy, reinforced by supervisory officers, officers may use their discretion in ineffective or harmful ways when responding to marital violence. A survey of police officers in London and Kent demonstrates that officers view domestic-assault incidents as a frustrating and uncertain area of police work. A questionnaire administered to victims of marital violence found that they wanted police to believe they had been victimized, to take their injuries seriously, and to take action necessary to stop the violence. When police arrested and prosecuted the offenders, victims supported this action. Although police complain that many marital-violence victims will not pursue prosecutions, these cases should be prosecuted the same as any other criminal offense. Police should offer practical assistance and advice to the victim. Police training specific to marital-violence incidents is required to ensure that formal policies are implemented in a professional manner. 79 references, subject index.