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

Published June 2009

Chapter 6. Prosecution Responses

Section  5 — Why do a minority of victims oppose prosecution?

Although studies have found multiple reasons for victim opposition to prosecution, fear is among the leading reasons expressed by victims. Fear of the abuser is first and foremost, followed by fear of testifying in court.

A study of five jurisdictions in three states found that victims across all sites reported that fear of defendant retaliation was their most common barrier to participation with prosecutors. [103] Even in a Chicago study where the majority of Chicago victims wanted their abusers prosecuted, fear was the biggest factor for those who opposed prosecution. A quarter of victims opposing prosecution reported being specifically threatened by their abusers against prosecution. Others expressed fear that their abusers would become more violent. In addition to fear, almost half who wanted the prosecution to be dropped thought it wouldn't make any difference. About a third of the victims opposed prosecution because they depended on their abusers for housing. [107]

In addition to fear of the abuser, an Ohio study found that more victims were actually more afraid of testifying in court than they were of the defendant or compromising their relationship with the defendant. Specifically, victims expressed fear that the prosecutors would not prepare them adequately to testify. They were also concerned that the defendant might not be found guilty. [11]

Implications for Prosecutors

To increase victim cooperation and participation in prosecution, prosecutors must address victim fears of reabuse and of testifying in court. (Research basis: Several victim studies in different jurisdictions.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009