Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 2. Reporting and Arrests

Section 4 — Does the quality of the law enforcement response influence whether domestic violence is reported?

Research indicates that actions of law enforcement, such as follow-up home visits after incidents, can encourage victim reports of domestic violence. [37] It appears that victim confidence in police response leads to more reports of new violence. [41, 68] This is reinforced by a study of a police department domestic violence unit, which documented that repeated victim contact with law enforcement officers assigned to a specialized domestic violence unit significantly increased the likelihood of victim reports of revictimization. [130]

On the other hand, research also shows that victims who reported prior victimization and thought the criminal justice response was insufficient or endangered them are less likely to report subsequent victimizations. [23] However, even if the victim opposed the arrest of her abuser, she is generally just as likely to report revictimizations as are victims who did not oppose the initial arrest. [23, 130]

Implications for Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers should not be deterred from arresting abuse suspects for fear of prejudicing future victim reporting of revictimization. Law enforcement responses can increase victim reports of reabuse (even as they decrease the likelihood of reabuse). Therefore, increased reporting of victimization does not necessarily mean that law enforcement efforts are failing to reduce actual domestic abuse, and decreased reporting may not indicate successful law enforcement efforts. (Research basis: An increase in reported findings, based on three experimental studies as well as multiple observational studies from disparate localities.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009