Two decades after new domestic violence policies were implemented, it is apparent that criminal justice approaches may not be successful in combating the domestic violence problem and improving women's safety. As evident in the experiences of Vietnamese immigrant women, most victims of domestic abuse do not report abuse incidents, nor do they favor the arrest and prosecution of their abusers. The effects of criminal justice interventions tend to be limited to immediate protection and short-term prevention, and women's physical safety often coexists with increased emotional abuse and strained family relationships. In many situations, criminal justice interventions also lead to family breakups to the disappointment of women who have relied on the system to end violence and eventually improve family relationships.
Vietnamese immigrant women are not alone in experiencing unsuccessful criminal justice interventions. Abused women in the general population, following contacts with the police, prosecutors, and the court, also realize that the system has limited capacities and investments in helping them or providing meaningful relief from their abusers (Erez & Belknap, 1998a). Findings from many studies suggest that arrests are not effective in deterring subsequent domestic assaults, have no long-term effects, and can increase hostilities (Hirschel et al., 1992; Berk et al., 1992; Dunford et al., 1990; Sherman et al., 1992; Goolkasian, 1986); prosecution and personal protection orders can reduce violence only for cases involving low levels of prior violence and injury (Chaudhuri & Daly, 1992; Pagan et al., 1984). Consequently, few women embrace criminal justice approaches to domestic violence. Estimates of domestic violence incidents reported by women victims vary from less than 10% to 50% (Rimonte, 1989; Hackler, 1991; Kantor & Straus, 1990; Smith & Klein, 1984; Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995; Button, 1995), and the number of women who desire to drop charges and/or refuse to testify for the courts