Non-Traditional Strategies for Domestic Violence

By West, Marty | Law & Order, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Non-Traditional Strategies for Domestic Violence


West, Marty, Law & Order


Episodes of domestic violence occur daily in households throughout our nation. The legal definition of domestic violence is an act by a person who inflicts corporal injury on his or her spouse, former spouse, or a current or former partner with whom the offender is in an intimate relationship. Interestingly, advocates of domestic violence prevention believe this definition is not broad enough.

They extend the definition to include sexual, emotional, and financial abuse. Thus, they consider unwanted sex, mental abuse caused by derogatory statements, and the withholding of money to be domestic violence. The fact that there is disagreement over the definition of domestic violence is often cited as one reason the incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine.

Reports to police of unwanted sex between married couples or complaints of abuse or derogatory statements are not likely to cause police to initiate a criminal investigation for domestic violence. Moreover, the US Department of Justice does not require law enforcement agencies to report the specific number of domestic violence cases the agency investigated.

What is disturbing is that we don't have a more accurate indication of the true number of domestic violence cases that are occurring annually in America. However, we can conclude that it happens much more than we will ever know.

Impact on Law Enforcement

A large number of the reported domestic violence cases are aggravated assaults that usually occur in the privacy of the victim's home. Unlike many violent crimes that occur in public places, domestic violence is a difficult crime for the police to prevent as the arguments and the resultant assaults usually occur in the privacy of a home. Nonetheless, the FBI collects data from police and sheriffs departments on all forms of assaults, including domestic violence, and publishes it annually.

Corporate executives consider this data in rendering decisions about establishing new business in the area, or expanding an existing business, or choosing to close it altogether. These decisions impact a city's economy, its unemployment rate, and the police budget. Secondly, reports of domestic violence, particularly those that receive considerable publicity, generate fear in a community and usually a call for action by police. Too often, a lack of attention to domestic violence by the police results in a plan that is forced upon police. Typically, the plan is neither well conceived nor comprehensive enough to impact the problem and prevent future occurrences.

Finally, domestic violence is a recurring crime that, if not properly addressed, results in repeated calls for service to the same homes. As a result, police are diverted from other public safety responsibilities. It stands to reason that local law enforcement should develop strategies designed to help victims help themselves before it results in a violent crime.

A Collaborative Response

Law enforcement agencies can more effectively prevent domestic violence by taking a more comprehensive approach than merely investigating the abusive behavior, collecting physical evidence, and submitting the complaint to the district attorney for prosecution. …

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