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Forgoing Criminal Justice Assistance: The Non-Reporting of New Incidents of Abuse in a Court Sample of Domestic Violence Victims

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2003
43 pages
Publication Series
This study examined the impact of case processing outcomes in domestic violence incidents on the likelihood of the victim reporting subsequent re-victimization.
The purpose of the study was to determine the differences between victims of domestic violence who re-reported further instances of violence to the criminal justice system and those who did not re-report. Since victim reporting is a key component for criminal justice system action, it is important to discover why victims fail to report acts of violence against them, especially if they have reported similar acts of violence in the past. The authors interviewed 118 female victims of domestic violence that were known to them from a previous study of 353 cases of male-to-female domestic violence. Of these 118 victims, 58 reported that they had experienced further acts of violence at the hands of the offender. However, only 26 victims re-reported these acts of violence to the criminal justice system. The main reason offered for not re-reporting acts of violence was that the policy of aggressive law enforcement and court response for domestic violence effectively removed the victim’s sense of control over the proceedings. Thus, the outcome of policies that dismiss victim preferences regarding the handling of the case may work to discourage the future use of the system by victims who either want the system to act more severely with the offender or who want the system to do less. As such, it is victim frustration with the criminal justice system that leads to reluctance to re-report crimes against themselves. The authors make two main suggestions based on these findings. First, the criminal justice system needs to set up new methods to persuade victims to report subsequent victimization to the police and second, new strategies should be developed that make the identification of subsequent re-victimization a community concern rather than the sole responsibility of the victim. References, tables

Date Published: January 1, 2003