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

Published June 2009

Chapter 3. Offender Characteristics

Section 6 — Do abusers stick with one victim?

Deprived of their victim, many abusers will go on to abuse another intimate partner or family member. Others may abuse multiple intimate partners and family members simultaneously. [32] The Rhode Island probation study, for example, found that in a one-year period, more than a quarter (28 percent) of those probationers who were rearrested for a new crime of domestic violence abused a different partner or family member. [141] The Massachusetts study of persons arrested for violating a civil restraining order found that almost half (43 percent) had two or more victims over six years. [18] This confirms an earlier state study finding that 25 percent of individuals who had protective orders taken out against them in 1992 had up to eight new orders taken out against them by as many victims over the subsequent six years. [2]

Studies have generally found that abusers who go on to abuse new partners are not substantially different from those who reabuse the same partner, with the exception that they tend to be younger and are not married to their partners. [2, 141]

Implications for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

If the abuser is no longer with the victim of the last domestic violence incident, new intimate partners are vulnerable to becoming new targets of abuse. Whether the batterer remains with the same victim or not, battering behavior brought to police and prosecutors' attention is likely to reflect chronic, patterned, non-isolated behavior that is victim specific. In charging decisions, sentencing recommendations, and fashioning protective orders or criminal sanctions, prosecutors and judges must be concerned with future intimate-partner victims as well as immediate victims, even if the immediate intimate-partner victims are no longer available to the abusers. (Research basis: Although longitudinal studies of batterers are few, multiple studies that follow batterers for only a year or two also confirm the serial nature of battering for some abusers.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009