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

Published June 2009

Chapter 3. Offender Characteristics

Section 9 — When are abusers likely to reabuse?

Studies agree that for those abusers who reoffend, a majority do so relatively quickly. In states where no-contact orders are automatically imposed after an arrest for domestic violence, rearrests for order violations begin to occur immediately upon the defendant's release from the police station or court. For example, in both a Massachusetts misdemeanor arrest study and a Brooklyn, N.Y., felony arrest study, the majority of defendants rearrested for new abuse were arrested while their initial abuse cases were still pending in court. [23, 164] The latter included a 16-percent arrest rate for violation of no-contact orders and a 14-percent arrest rate for a new felony offense. [164] Similarly, a little more than one-third of the domestic violence probationers in Rhode Island who were rearrested for domestic violence were rearrested within two months of being placed under probation supervision. More than half (60 percent) were arrested within six months. [141] A multistate study of abusers referred to batterer programs found that almost half of the men (44 percent) who reassaulted their partners did so within three months of batterer program intake, and two-thirds within six months. The men who reassaulted within the first three months were more likely to repeatedly reassault their partners than the men who committed the first reassault after the first three months. [81, 83, 84] In the Bronx, similarly, reoffending happened early among those convicted for misdemeanor or domestic violence violations. Of those rearrested for domestic violence, approximately two-thirds reoffended within the first six months. [185]

Implications for Law Enforcement

Arrest is only the first step in stopping abuse. Countermeasures must begin immediately, once the suspect is released pending trial. Focusing on those already arrested for domestic violence provides law enforcement with the means to target a high-risk population of abusers who are disproportionately likely to commit new abuse-related and other offenses. (Research basis: Multiple studies from disparate jurisdictions have all found relatively quick reabuse by abusers who reabuse within the first year or two.)

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Arrest is only the first step in stopping abuse. Once arrested, prosecutors must immediately pursue measures to safeguard victims pending trial and thereafter. If abusers are automatically released pending trial, the most vulnerable victims will be reabused by the worst abusers. This reabuse may also inhibit subsequent victim cooperation with prosecutors, resulting in subsequent dismissals for lack of prosecution. This in turn may further encourage abusers to continue their abuse. (Research basis: Multiple studies from disparate jurisdictions have all found relatively quick reabuse by those that reabuse within the first year or two.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009