Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tough love in reporting domestic abuse?

The (online news from Central Indiana) ran an article today on domestic violence and law enforcement cases. The focus is on the difficulty of prosecuting abusers if the victim refuses to press charges, or recants her allegations. Read this article here. Law enforcement in some Indiana counties is working on new strategies to prosecute abusers, even if the victim later turns uncooperative.

One proposed strategy to is to penalize those who first report assault/domestic violence, and then later recant. "Those who actually recant earlier allegations of battery will likely find themselves the target of a criminal investigation, facing the possibility of charges ranging from obstruction of justice to false informing," according to this article.

Other parts of the plan are to have responding police officers compile more evidence and extensive reports, and any victim who later wishes to have the charges against her abuser dropped would be required to take a 10 hour class on the cycle of violence and abuse.

What do you think about possibly prosecuting victims of abuse who later recant and thus prevent prosecution of their abusers? Is this just further re-traumatizing victims? Will it lead to fewer reported abuse instances? Is this holding victims accountable for following through on their actions? Take a short survey here, results will be reported later on this blog.


  1. This is a very important topic when it comes to victims of partner violence and law enforcement. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors want to do what is "right" and "best" for the victim and his/her community at large, sometimes this results in "strong arming" victims to testify or report when he/she is not ready or able (physical, psychological, or otherwise). Who are we as clinicians/society/support, etc to push any victim (or punish)him/her into reporting? I believe, it is his/her process - when/how/why they report - eventually they will get stronger and report and follow through (or die?). A woman who experiences DV will leave approx 7 times before she either leaves for good, or is killed at the hands of her abuser. Grueling statistic. Is it not a sign of the mentality of law enforcement (though they ARE coming from a "right" intentional place) to think they can push the victim into reporting and following through when maybe after booking the offender, she bails him out, or allows him back into the home - again, the cycle of abuse. I think it is damaging to the law enforcement system to "punish" victims of violent crimes who DO NOT WANT TO GO FORTH WITH REPORTING. Afterall, what other crimes do you see that have this as a punishment? None that I can think of - is this institutional/cultural bias towards loss of victim rights? I don't know - I just know as a therapist in the community - I think it is imperative to allow and encourage a victim to find her/his own voice in his/her own time. I can't rush it, nor can law enforcement. Thank you for bringing this topic to light Joanne. Amy Schneidmiller

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  3. Cathy Goodwin12/25/2008 8:45 PM

    It's not an easy question. While I sympathize with the victims, I wish there were other options available to them besides calling the cops.I'd like to know if there are any interventions to reduce the "7 times" women leave before they leave for good or get killed.

    Law enforccement agencies have limited resources. They're not warm and fuzzy and they see things in black and white. So they see the revolving door as a waste of time. In some jurisdictions, if there is evidence of violence, the spouse can't change her mind (or his -- women can DV perpetrators, too).

    Second, women sometimes misuse the system. Many years ago, a male friend made a bad marriage decision. The wife falsely reported him as an abuser. He thought the whole thing was a joke until the court forgot to discharge the warrant and he was picked and held overnight. I believe the wife should have been prosecuted. Of course, he was way too easygoiog (that's how he got into this situation in the first place).

    I realize false reports by women are rare but they do happen, with tragic consequences. My friend was lucky. The New York Times had an article about someone who was not so lucky.