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Public Opinion About Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2001
187 pages
This study examined public beliefs about the causes of violence, the extent and accuracy of knowledge about laws regarding domestic violence, views about appropriate criminal justice responses to domestic violence cases, and perceptions of community criminal justice practices.
A survey of 1,200 respondents in 6 communities examined variations in these beliefs and tested hypotheses about the influence of respondents' social background and experiences, as well as community context, on beliefs and opinions. The study found that a significant proportion of respondents held women responsible for violence against them. This was reflected in beliefs that victims can and should end violence by exiting abusive relationships, that women's behavior provokes violence, and/or that women initiate physical conflicts. The intensity of victim-blaming was associated with beliefs about the appropriateness of victim-oriented interventions as well as legal actions directed against perpetrators. Policymakers should be attentive to this correlation, inasmuch as negative attitudes about victims may justify opposition to programs aimed at reducing victimization. Further, findings suggest that people's views about what should be done in response to domestic violence correlate with what they believe police actually do. Most peoples preferences for effective interventions are not being implemented. Generally, the public is not resistant to the criminalization of many aggressive behaviors. The public apparently favors a more protective and interventionist role for the courts than they have historically adopted. There is apparently little need to convince the public that domestic violence is a common problem, that it is illegal, or that it requires police intervention. The public may, however, be misinformed about the difficulties women face in exiting a violent relationship. Extensive tables and 57 references

Date Published: February 1, 2001