Academic journal article The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

Women's Disengagement from Legal Proceedings for Intimate Partner Violence: Sociodemographic and Psychological variables/Renuncia De Las Mujeres Al Procedimiento Judicial Por Violencia De Género: Variables Sociodemográficas Y Psicológicas

Academic journal article The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

Women's Disengagement from Legal Proceedings for Intimate Partner Violence: Sociodemographic and Psychological variables/Renuncia De Las Mujeres Al Procedimiento Judicial Por Violencia De Género: Variables Sociodemográficas Y Psicológicas

Article excerpt

The first decade of this century has seen important social and legislative progress in terms of equality and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Spain. Thanks to four large surveys and several reports by the Consejo General del Poder Judicial-CGPJ [Spain's General Council of the Judiciary] (e.g., Consejo General del Poder Judicial, 2013) we have a great deal of information about this issue in Spain compared to most other countries in the European Union. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014) conducted the first comparative study providing information for all 28 EU member states. It found that 22% of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their partner, with important variations between countries: Spain had one of the lowest levels at 13%, in contrast to 32% in Denmark, 30% in Finland, and 29% in the UK. However, only a small percentage of these women decided to press charges: one in three, according to the study.

At the beginning of 2005, Organic Act 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence came into effect. Legal proceedings could be started by the actual victim or a third party. Once legal proceedings have begun, there is a percentage of women who choose not to continue (20.9% according to the Delegación del Gobierno para la Violencia de Género (2015) [Government Delegation for Gender Violence], either by invoking their right under Article 416 Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal (LECr), referring to a waiver on the victim's obligation to declare against her partner (12.4% of them according to the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (2013), or because they choose not to pursue the legal proceedings. As these are considered public crimes they may be prosecuted ex officio, in which case the Public Prosecutor may continue with the legal proceedings. However, as most of the testimony depends on the victim's reporting, if she invokes her right not to report or she drops criminal charges, the magistrate normally orders a temporary stay of proceedings and the case would be closed. The reasons for which women disengage from legal proceedings remain unclear (Cala, de la Mata, Saavedra, & Godoy, 2012).

Much could be gained socially from a clearer understanding of the factors underlying this tendency. The aim of this study is to shed light on what makes women decide whether or not to continue with legal proceedings for IPV once they have commenced. Several recent research works deal with the problem of IPV in Spain, some of them focusing on the analysis of offenders' psychological factors (Lila, Oliver, Catalá-Miñana, Galiana, & Gracia, 2014; Ruiz-Hernández, García-Jiménez, Llor-Esteban, & GodoyFernández, 2015). However, to the best of our knowledge, our study is the first one carried out in Spain focusing on the reasons why women disengage from legal proceedings for IPV.

Most previous studies have focused on sociodemographic variables. Hare (2006) found that educational level, the number of children at home, or the ethnic group did not have a significant effect, while age, being married to the aggressor, and the population of the town or village where they lived were significant. In different qualitative studies, ethnic variables did appear as relevant, because the immigrant population has fewer resources and faces greater linguistic and cultural barriers, which may lead to greater difficulties for commencing and continuing with the legal process (Gillis et al., 2006; Wright & Fitzgerald, 2007). Finally, the variable with the most consistent results concerning the definitive break-up of the relationship with the aggressor is the financial independence of the victim (Anderson & Saunders, 2003).

Psychosocial aspects represent another important group of variables to which disengagement from the judicial process may be related. Several authors have pointed out that most of the studies have focused on women's individual and situational characteristics, ignoring other sociocultural aspects (e. …

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