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Factors Related to Domestic Violence Court Dispositions in a Large Urban Area: The Role of Victim/Witness Reluctance and Other Variables, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
20 pages
This study of factors related to domestic violence court dispositions in a large urban area points to the utility of using varied data sources to address court processing of domestic violence.
The study was conducted in a large mid-western jurisdiction and used four sources of data to explore how misdemeanor intimate partner domestic violence cases were processed. The first data set included pretrial, prosecutor, and police data on 2,670 court cases. The second data set involved in-depth interviews with and surveys of 14 judges, 18 prosecutors, and 31 public defenders who tried misdemeanor domestic violence cases. The third data set comprised 127 court transcripts, while the fourth data set involved in-depth interviews with and surveys of over 100 female victims. A major focus of the study was the issue of victim-witness reluctance-cooperation. Study findings revealed that the phenomenon of victim-witness reluctance was significant and that the court system was remiss in staying in touch with victims after batterers were arrested. Even victims with whom prosecutors managed to stay in touch or who sought out the prosecutors themselves often did not receive the adequate time and court preparation they needed from prosecutors who appeared to be overburdened with cases. When cases of domestic violence victims reached court, relevant factors about what the abuse actually entailed were rarely presented. Moreover, the voice and the input of victims were notably lacking in the court process. Two policy recommendations are offered: (1) develop an improved method to contact victims and maintain contact with them; and (2) improve the ability of courts to process domestic violence cases with or without the victim's presence and cooperation. 9 endnotes and 5 tables

Date Published: January 1, 2000