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Impact of Children on Legal Actions Taken by Women Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2011
10 pages
This study examined intimate partner violence (IPV) victim's decisions regarding legal action against an abusive partner if they have children.
Successful criminal or civil legal system response to assaults against intimate partners (intimate partner violence; IPV) usually rely on the victim’s participation in the legal process, including having contact with the prosecutor, filing charges, and/or applying for an order of personal protection. Using data abstracted from criminal and civil legal system records for a county-wide cohort of 990 female IPV victims over a 4-year period, the authors examine the impact of having children, and of specific child factors, on victims’ engagement with the criminal prosecution of their abusive partners and/or seeking a personal protection order (PPO) in the civil court system. Having children increased victim’s contact with the prosecutor and applications for PPOs, but did not increase her likelihood of wanting to file or drop charges. Findings support prior work suggesting both the importance and complexity of children on mothers’ decisionmaking. Policymakers and service providers may want to assess survivors’ thoughts about the role children play in their decisionmaking. Additionally, by offering survivors interventions to help their children address the impact of IPV exposure, survivors may be more willing to engage with services. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: July 1, 2011