Wife Assault in Community-Resident Offenders
Hart, Stephen D., Kropp, P. Randall, Roesch, Ronald, Ogloff, James R. P., Whittemore, Karen, Canadian Journal of Criminology
The authors suveyed a random sample of community-resident offenders in British Columbia to determine the prevalence of wife assault. The rate was high: About 1 in 5 men had a known history (current or lifetime). These findings support the view that wife assault is an important policy issue for provincial corrections agencies. A number of strategies for dealing with this problem are discussed, including public education, counseling for wife assaulters, services for victims, and staff training.
Wife assault is a critical public policy issue because of its prevalence and its profound negative consequences for victims (Browne and Dutton 1990; Straus and Gelles 1986; Walker 1989). In Canada, the recent Violence Against Women Survey examined the victimization experiences of a random sample of approximately 12,300 adult women (Statistics Canada 1993). The results indicated that 25% of all women had suffered physical or sexual assault (including threats of harm) at the hands of a current or past marital partner since the age of 16. About 7% of women were sexually assaulted by their partners, and 4% were assaulted with weapons. The incidents of wife assault reported by the women often had serious consequences: 31% resulted in women taking time off from their everyday activities (including work and childcare), and 45% resulted in physical injuries (with about half of those requiring medical attention). These results are very consistent with those of previous studies (Kennedy and Dutton 1989; Solicitor General of Canada 1985) and attest to the tremendous personal, social, and economic costs of wife assault.
As do researchers, criminal justice agencies, and victims' advocates throughout Canada and the United States, we define wife assault (or husband-to-wife assault) as any actual, attempted, or threatened physical harm perpetrated by a man against a woman with whom he has (or has had) an intimate, sexual relationship.(2) At first glance, this definition seems quite broad. First, the term wife is not limited in application to women who are legally and currently married; it also includes those who have formal or informal common-law relationships, as well as those who had an intimate relationship with the assaulter at some time in the past. Second, assault is not limited to its legal definition under the Criminal Code of Canada (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46); it subsumes various illegal acts that may occur in the context of actual, attempted, or threatened assault, such as break and entry of the woman's residence, threats of harm or death against her, or destruction of her property. It does not include more general forms of psychological abuse, such as insults or threats of marital separation. The breadth of this definition does not decrease its utility. The physical and psychological consequences of wife assault are not diminished simply because the assaulter and victim are not legally married; if anything, women living common-law or separated from their partners may actually be at increased risk for assault (Kennedy and Dutton 1989; Solicitor General of Canada 1985; Statistics Canada 1993). Also, the assaultive behaviours included under the definition are (potentially) subject to arrest under a variety of Criminal Code offences.
Most discussions of the criminal justice response to wife assault focus on the police and on prosecutorial strategies (Buzawa and Buzawa 1992; Hilton 1993). This is understandable, as spousal assaults are one of the most common incidents reported to and attended by police via emergency (911) lines (Pierce and Spaar 1992; Levens and Dutton 1980). Also, many jurisdictions in North America now have an explicit policy concerning the policing and prosecution of spousal assaults (Ford and Regoli 1992; Jaffe, Hastings, Reitzel, and Austin 1993). But wife assault is also emerging as an important issue in corrections. It is becoming clear that many correctional clients have a history of wife assault and other forms of family violence -- even those convicted of offences other than wife assault. …