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Victim Participation in Intimate Partner Violence Prosecution: Implications for Safety

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2011
153 pages
This study examined to what extent female intimate partner violence (IPV) victim participation in prosecution is associated with their future safety. In essence, are IPV victims who participate in prosecution safer than those who do not?
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is recognized as a major public health problem affecting millions of families and resulting in long-lasting health complications. The intergenerational transmission of violence calls for urgent responses. By the late 20th century, the United States responded to IPV by criminalizing behavior and redefining the prosecutorial role. Currently, all 50 states have enacted laws that address IPV through prosecutorial responses that complement aggressive policing responses, such as mandatory and permissive arrest policies. Prosecutors are encouraged to employ evidence-based prosecutions and discourage victims from dropping charges. Given findings that protection orders can reduce future harm to victims, it is essential to understand how a victim's participation along the continuum of calling 911, talking to the prosecutor, and engaging in criminal prosecution, impacts safety. It is hypothesized that participation would improve IPV victims' safety. The key finding is that victim participation in prosecution does not increase her help seeking via police calls for service that generate an incident report, nor the likelihood of future IPV and injury. These results are important in light of the current pro-prosecution strategies, which support evidence-based trials that proceed regardless of the victim's presence or testimony. Based on study findings, special prosecution units, vertical prosecution, continuances sensitive to victims needs, combined with court-based victim advocacy and victim input into prosecution outcomes, should continue to be considered best practices. Policy recommendations include increasing communication between the prosecutor's office and victims, improving referral to advocacy organizations, and reducing logistical barriers for victims to participate in prosecution.

Date Published: February 1, 2011