Victims of Partner Versus Nonpartner Violence: Experiences with the Criminal
Priscilla Schulz, LCSW
from an article of the same title by:
Christina A. Byrne, Dean G. Kilpatrick, Medical University of South Carolina
Susan S. Howley,
David Beatty, National Center for Victims of Crime
Published: Criminal Justice and Behavior, V. 26 (3),
What is the purpose of this study?
Female victims of intimate partner violence face special problems. Besides the fear of retaliatory violence by partners when victims report abuse to the police, these women also experience attitudes and behaviors by criminal justice system personnel that blame them for the abuse and that demonstrate a reluctance to take such incidents seriously. Some examples are: police refusing to arrest batterers or to gather sufficient evidence in a domestic violence crime; prosecutors who are unwilling to file charges or pursue strict sentences against abusive men; judges dismissing cases in which a restraining order has been violated. In the past decade, states have passed laws to both expand and better protect victim's rights. Examples of victims' rights that are part of many states' legislation include victim's right to be notified of the status of the case, to receive restitution, to be present for legal proceedings, and to be heard by the court regarding the effects of the crime on his/her life. The present study
Empirically examines the level of satisfaction with the criminal justice system of female victims of male violenceWhat makes victims' rights legislation weak or strong?
Criteria that the present study used to determine relative strength of victims' rights legislation in different states were:
Comprehensiveness of the statute regarding each aspect of victims' rightsThirty-one states currently have victims' rights legislation. All were evaluated and ranked by strength of their victims' rights laws. Four were selected to use in the study, two from the top 25% (strong) and two from the bottom 25% (weak).How did the study determine satisfaction with the criminal justice system?
The Department of Corrections and Crime Victims' Compensation records from the four chosen states provided names of potential study participants. From this initial group, 1,312 individuals participated in a 40-minute telephone interview in which the Crime Victims' Survey and the Victim Satisfaction Scale (VSS) were administered by trained interviewers. These measures determined which participants were victims of partner violence and which were not. In addition, they assessed crime victims' experiences and degree of satisfaction with different aspects and personnel of the criminal justice system. Analyses then compared responses of victims of intimate partner violence with responses of victims of violent assaults whose assailants had not been intimate partners.
What were the study's findings?
Statistically significant differences emerged between victims of partner vs. nonpartner violence in terms of their satisfaction with the criminal justice system, including:
Police: Victims of partner violence were less likely to report that police officers:What are the implications of this study?Demonstrated an interest in victims' feelingsProsecutors: Most differences between the groups were in their experiences with prosecutors.
Weak protection of victims' rights may disproportionately hamper victims of intimate partner violence relative to victims of nonpartner violence. Weak victims' rights protection perpetuates victim-blaming attitudes and inadvertently sends a message of social acceptance of the violence to its perpetrators.Reviewed by Priscilla Schulz, September 1999