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

Published June 2009

Chapter 2. Reporting and Arrests

Section 3 — Which victims are likely to report domestic violence?

Some victims are more likely to report their victimization or revictimization than others. Research indicates that women who have more experience with the criminal justice system — especially those with protective orders or who have experienced more severe abuse histories — are more likely to call police. [23, 27, 120, 141]

The seriousness of injury may not increase victim reporting, however, because of incapacity, the increased likelihood that a third party will call in these cases, or the fact that seriously injured victims are less likely to have protective orders. [23] Younger women, those in dating relationships, and those with little prior contact with the criminal justice system are less likely to call police. [23, 27]

Implications for Law Enforcement

When a victim reports domestic violence, it probably indicates repeated prior abuse incidents. Law enforcement officers should be trained in how to assist victims and encourage them to secure protective orders if for no other reason than victims with protective orders are more likely than those without such an order to alert police to subsequent victimization incidents. Existence of protective orders adds to the body of evidence for future prosecution. (Research basis: Both national surveys and multiple local studies conclude that victim reporting is not uniform or consistent. Although one might argue that protective orders generate violations by criminalizing otherwise legal behavior, both national and multiple local studies found higher reporting rates of a variety of domestic violence crimes for victims with protective orders.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009