U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Effects of State and Local Domestic Violence Policy on Intimate Partner Homicide (From Violence Against Women and Family Violence: Developments in Research, Practice, and Policy, 2004, Bonnie Fisher, ed. -- See NCJ-199701)

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2004
10 pages
This study examined the impact on domestic violence of various features of relevant State laws and the characteristics of local enforcement of domestic violence laws and strong legal advocacy services.
The homicide data were extracted from the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program (UCR). The researchers aggregated to the city level for each year the number of homicides by the victim's gender, race, and marital relationship to the offender. "Married" persons included ex-spouses and common-law spouses; "unmarried" persons included the SHR categories of "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." The core of the data-collection strategy was to obtain informants within the local agencies of the 50 largest cities and ask them to complete a survey that inventoried policies or activities by type and year of implementation. Four of 11 indicators of domestic violence resources were measures of State statutes, including provisions for warrantless and/or mandatory arrest, an index of the legal consequences for violating a protection order, and an exposure reduction index that increases in value with provisions for no-contact orders and custody relief. Five of the indicators measured components of local policy, including police arrest policies, the presence of domestic violence units and training in police agencies, the willingness of prosecutors' offices to take domestic violence cases and the use of written policies for prosecuting them, the presence of domestic violence units and legal advocates in prosecutors' offices, and whether the prosecutor's office has a "no-drop" policy. Two indicators measured the strength of legal advocacy programs and the prevalence of hotlines in the city. Because the dependent variable was a count of homicide victims within a discrete period, the authors used the Poisson likelihood function to estimate models, with each observation weighted by the 3-year average of the city's population. Consistent with previous research, the authors found that much of the decline in intimate-partner homicide over the past 25 years has been associated with declining marital domesticity (decreasing rates of marriage and increasing rates of divorce). Results suggest that increases in alternatives to living with or depending upon an abusive partner contributed to the decreasing homicide rates of intimate partners. The remaining findings support the retaliation hypothesis, i.e., resources that are intended to reduce exposure to violence are associated with higher levels of intimate homicide. One interpretation of this result is that batterers increase their violence once their partners try to leave. As the willingness of prosecutors to take cases increased, so did homicide for married White and unmarried Black partners. Prosecutor willingness to take cases was also associated with higher levels of victimization among unmarried White women, and the measure of prosecution specialization was associated with greater victimization of unmarried White men. These results imply that the willingness and capacity to prosecute cases of protection order violations may aggravate already tumultuous relationships. Implications of these findings are drawn for researchers and for practitioners. 2 exhibits and 18 references

Date Published: January 1, 2004