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Longitudinal Study of Battered Women in the System: The Victims' and Decision-Makers' Perceptions, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2002
100 pages
Based on interviews with 178 battered women from 3 sites and prosecutors in the same sites, this study examined the experiences and perceptions of the interviewees regarding the criminal processing of the battered women's cases.
The study was conducted between March 1999 and December 2000 in Boulder County, CO; Ingham County, MI; and Denver, CO. The objectives of the study were to better understand the impact of prosecution on battered women's satisfaction with the prosecutorial system, with and without survivor participation; to better understand other factors that impact battered women's satisfaction with the criminal processing system; to examine the long-term impact of prosecution on subsequent violence and survivors' subsequent interactions with the criminal processing system; and to examine prosecutors' self-reported experiences, behaviors, and attitudes regarding woman-battering cases. The women were interviewed at three points in time: shortly after their final court dispositions, 6 months after the court dispositions, and 1 year after disposition. The types of variables measured in the survivor interviews were indicators of the violence and resulting injuries; indicators of the context of women's lives (race, relationship with the assailant, and economic dependence); indicators of survivors' experiences with the legal system's processes and outcome; and survivors' perceived control over and satisfaction with the various aspects of the criminal legal system. The interviews with the prosecutors focused on their perceptions of victims, defendants, how domestic-violence cases differ from other cases, and how the system could be improved. The study found that women who were in the "Somewhat Satisfied" cluster felt they had more control over the court process than did women in the other clusters. Control also mediated the site differences in satisfaction with the outcome. Contrary to expectations, the effects of incident characteristics on women's satisfaction with the system were weak. Overall, the study determined that prior experiences with the criminal justice system did influence future intentions to use the legal system. Women who were treated with respect (listened to and believed) by the police and prosecutors during the incident at issue were more likely to indicate they would use the legal system again. This suggests the importance of police and prosecutor behavior in gaining the cooperation of domestic assault victims. 62 references

Date Published: October 1, 2002