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Court Interventions May Not Be Effective in Preventing Future Intimate Partner (Domestic) Violence

Date Published
May 18, 2009

A study that examined the long-term effectiveness of court interventions for a cohort of men arrested for domestic violence reported that 75 percent of the men reoffended for substance abuse or violence or both, often before the courts had disposed of an earlier crime. Analyses showed that:

  • The courts were consistent in sentencing.
  • To properly evaluate a criminal justice response to domestic violence, the general criminal behavior of the person who abused should be taken into account.
  • Men in the study were antisocial, persistently criminal, and engaged in domestic violence as part of their general criminal activities.
  • Deterrence was unlikely to work for the person convicted of a crime in this study.[1]

Another study that examined a specialized domestic violence probation program in Rhode Island found that mandatory attendance at batterer programs and no-contact orders routinely issued at sentencing did not protect the women from further abuse. [2]

This same study found that more than one-third of persons on probation were arrested for a new domestic violence offense within the first 2 months, and almost 60 percent were arrested within the first 6 months. People on probation who had the highest re-abuse rates were those who had committed prior crimes (not just domestic violence) and younger persons who abuse (teenagers and those in their 20s).[4]

Protections Orders May Reduce Intimate Partner (Domestic) Violence

When domestic violence cases first come to court, most domestic violence courts (88 percent) issue a temporary  protection order or restraining order (unless one has already been issued). At sentencing, almost as many domestic violence courts impose a final protection order prohibiting or limiting contact with the victim. [5]

NIJ funded a study of protection orders, consequences for violating them, and costs in rural and urban jurisdictions in Kentucky. This study found that: [6]

  • Protection orders deter further violence and increase victim safety.
    • In 50 percent of the cases studied, victims experienced considerably less abuse and fear of abuse in the months after obtaining a protection order, even when the person convicted of a crime violated the terms of the order.
  • Protection orders save justice and social service systems money and improve victims' quality of life.
    • The Kentucky study measured a wide range of costs for each participant, including medical, mental health, criminal justice, legal, lost earnings, property losses and time lost for family and civic responsibilities. The study also produced a quality of life index six months before the protection order and six months after the protective order was issued. Overall, protection orders saved the state $85 million in a single year and improved victim safety at very little cost.
  • Rural and urban communities may differ in the processing and enforcement of protection orders, but victims in both the country and city benefit from protection orders. 
    • Rural victims encountered more barriers to obtaining protective orders, more negativity and blame from administering agencies, weaker enforcement of protection orders, and ultimately less relief from fear and abuse over time after obtaining a protection order.
    • Urban victims reported more difficulty navigating the justice system. Rural victims reported protection order violations less frequently.
    • Both rural and urban victims experienced similar reductions in abuse after obtaining a protection order, and overall a large majority felt that protection orders were effective.

Date Published: May 18, 2009