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

Published June 2009

Chapter 3. Offender Characteristics

Section 22 — What are the risk markers for severe injury?

Medical researchers have looked at severe injuries, those causing victims to seek hospital emergency room treatment. They have found that alcohol abuse, drug use, intermittent employment or recent unemployment, and having less than a high school education distinguish partners of women seeking medical treatment from domestic violence injuries from partners of women seeking treatment for nondomestic violence injuries. In one study, researchers found that 63.7 percent of the abusive partners were alcohol abusers, 36.7 percent abused drugs, a slight majority (51.6 percent) were drinking at the time of the assault, and 14.8 percent admitted to drug use at the time. [144] A similar hospital study found that cocaine use and prior arrests distinguished the violent partners from the nonviolent partners of women admitted to hospitals for treatment of injuries. [95]

Implications for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Prior threats to kill, prior strangulation and sexual assaults, as well as drinking and drugging histories and current use, should be taken very seriously when considering offender dangerousness. (Research basis: Conclusions from repeated studies somewhat overlap, indicating the same or similar risk factors for injury and lethality, including hospital studies of severe injuries of victims not necessarily involved in the criminal justice system.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009