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Criminalization of Domestic Violence: Promises and Limits

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
64 pages
Publication Series
This analysis of research and policy related to the criminalization of domestic assault concludes that the inconsistent findings to date point to the need for a program of research and development to advance the current state of knowledge on the effects of legal sanctions for spouse abuse.
During the past 30 years, the criminalization of domestic assault has developed along three parallel but generally separate tracks: criminal punishment and deterrence of batterers, batterer treatment, and restraining orders designed to protect victims through the threat of civil or criminal legal sanctions. Each policy track has been informed, advanced, and supported by victim advocacy groups. However, research and evaluation have generated weak or inconsistent evidence of deterrent effects on either repeat victimization or repeat offending. Weak research and evaluation designs, lack of integration of violence theories with theories of domestic assault, and many other factors have hindered this research. Therefore, a research program is needed. Theory is essential to this effort. Testable ideas should be identified from theoretical advances, formative evaluations of innovative practices, and qualitative studies of battering careers. Stable and sufficient resources will be required to support these development, evaluation, and research efforts.

Date Published: January 1, 1996