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

Published June 2009

Chapter 7. Judicial Responses

Section 10 — How many abusers violate court protective orders?

Research varies, but violation rates have been found to range from 23 percent over two years [26], 35 percent within six months [133], to 60 percent within twelve months [105], and in between at 48.8 percent within two years. [134] A Rhode Island study found consistent violation of criminal no-contact orders imposed after domestic violence arrests, resulting in subsequent concurrent sentences for both the initial domestic violence offense and the no-contact violation. Furthermore, the study also found that the majority (51 percent) of abusers sentenced concurrently for abuse-related offenses and no-contact violations reabused their victims. The rearrest rate for new abuse for abusers specifically convicted of civil protection order violations was 44 percent, and for criminal no-contact orders it was 48 percent, higher than all other domestic violence offenses, which ranged from 25 to 39 percent. [141]

The actual rates of violation of protective orders are higher if reabuse is measured by new domestic violence arrests or victim self-reports. In addition, order violation rates may not accurately reflect reabuse over a specific period of time because many victims do not retain or decide to drop orders. Although "permanent orders" in Massachusetts are for one year, almost half of the female victims subsequently returned to court to drop their orders before the year ended. [134] A review of disparate jurisdictions revealed that retention rates varied from 16 percent in Omaha, Neb., in 2003 [135] to 69 percent in the District of Columbia in 2000 [200] and 80 percent in East Norfolk, Mass., in 1995. [134]

Implications for Judges

As with the arrest of abusers, the issuance of protective orders alone does not assure victims' safety. Judges should advise victims of their protective order limitations. (Research basis: Multiple studies in disparate jurisdictions.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009