In the committee's view, collaborative law enforcement strategies that create a web of social control for offenders are an idea worth testing to determine if such efforts can achieve a significant deterrent effect in addressing domestic violence. Collaborative strategies include such efforts as victim support and offender tracking systems designed to increase the likelihood that domestic violence cases will be prosecuted when an arrest has been made, that sanctions and treatment services will be imposed when evidence exists to confirm the charges brought against the offender, and that penalties will be invoked for failure to comply with treatment
The absence of empirical research findings of the results of a collaborative law enforcement approach in addressing domestic violence makes it difficult to compare the costs and benefits of increased agency coordination with those achieved by a single law enforcement strategy (such as arrest) in dealing with different populations of offenders and victims. Even though relatively few cases of arrest are made for any form of family violence, arrest is the most common and most studied form of law enforcement intervention in this area. Research studies conducted in the 1980s on arrest policies in domestic violence cases are the strongest experimental evaluations to date of the role of deterrence in family violence interventions. These experiments indicate that arrest may be effective for some, but not most, batterers in reducing subsequent violence by the offender. Some research studies suggest that arrest may be a deterrent for employed and married individuals (those who have a stake in social conformity) and may lead to an escalation of violence among those who do not, but this observation has not been tested in studies that could specifically examine the impact of arrest in groups that differ in social and economic status. The differing effects (in terms of a reduction of future violence) of arrest for employed/unemployed and married/unmarried individuals raise difficult questions about the reliance of law enforcement officers on arrest as the sole or central component of their response to domestic violence incidents in communities where domestic violence cases are not routinely prosecuted, where sanctions are not imposed by the courts, or where victim support programs are not readily available.
All in all the issue of domestic violence is a serious one. People in those situations feel trapped but with intervention systems, they have a way out. The effectiveness of these systems can be gauged by the number of reports, and the decline of them, and personal stories of victory in said situations. Since every situation is different, not all systems will fit. But that does not mean they are not working.
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Children in homes where domestic violence occurs may be witnesses to abuse, may themselves be abused, may suffer harm “incidental” to the domestic abuse, and may be used by the batterer to manipulate or gain control over the victim. The offers a good overview of the ways in which children can be affected by domestic violence.
Studies of family dynamics and processes. Children who are victimized by witnessing family violence have only recently been the subject of research. Although this literature has identified a range of consequences, it has also revealed that many children exposed to violence do not develop marked problems. This relatively young area of research has the potential to take the family as the unit of analysis and integrate the largely separate strands of research on child maltreatment, domestic violence, and elder abuse. For this reason, the committee strongly urges that this line of research be continued in a fashion that cuts across these areas of study.
In-depth case studies and interviews with victims who have had police and court contacts because of domestic violence are needed to highlight individual, social, and institutional factors that facilitate or inhibit victim use of and perpetrator compliance with protective orders in different community settings. Such studies could (1) reveal patterns of help-seeking contacts and services that affect the use of protective orders and compliance with their requirements, (2) highlight the forms of sanctions that are appropriate to ensure compliance and to deter future violent behavior, (3) explore the extent to which the effects of protective orders are enhanced in reducing violence if victim advocates, shelter services, or other social support resources are available and are used by the victim in redefining the terms of her relationship with her partner, and (4) examine the extent to which protective orders can mitigate the consequences of violence for children who may have been assaulted or who may have witnessed an assault against their mother.
The experience of child fatality review teams in identifying systemic features that enhance or weaken agency efforts to protect children needs to be evaluated and made accessible to individual service providers in health, legal, and social service agencies. Key research issues include: the effect of review team actions on the protection of family members of children who have died as a result of child maltreatment; the impact of child fatality review reports on the prosecution of offenders; the influence of review team efforts on the routine investigation, treatment, and prevention activities of participating agencies; the impact of review teams on other community child protection and domestic violence prevention efforts; and the identification of early warning signals that emerge in child homicide investigations that represent opportunities for preventive interventions.
These challenges require close attention to the emerging knowledge associated with the evaluation of comprehensive community-wide interventions in areas unrelated to family violence, so that important design, theory, and measurement insights can be applied to the special needs of programs focused on child maltreatment, domestic violence, and elder abuse. Although no single model of service integration, comprehensive services, or community change can be endorsed at this time, a range of interesting community service designs has emerged that have achieved widespread popularity and support at the local level. Because their primary focus is often on prevention, rather than treatment, comprehensive community interventions have the potential to achieve change across multiple levels of interactions affecting individuals, families, communities, and social norms and thus reduce the scope and severity of family violence as well as contribute to remedies to other important social problems.
Evaluations of batterer treatment programs, protective orders, and arrest policies suggest that the role of these individual interventions may be enhanced if they are part of a broad-based strategy to address family violence. The development of comprehensive, community-based interventions has become extremely widespread in the 1990s; examples include domestic violence coordinating councils, child advocacy centers, and elder abuse task forces. A few communities (most notably Duluth, Minnesota, and Quincy, Massachusetts) have developed systemwide strategies to coordinate their law enforcement and other service responses to domestic violence.
For domestic violence, research evaluations are in the early stages of design and empirical data are not yet available to guide analyses of the effectiveness of different approaches. Major challenges include the absence of agreement regarding key psychosocial outcomes of interest in assessing the effectiveness of interventions, variations in the use of treatment protocols designed for post-traumatic stress for individuals who may still be experiencing traumatic situations, tensions between protocol-driven models of treatment (which are easier to evaluate) and those that are driven by the needs of the client or the context in which the violence occurred, the co-occurrence of trauma and other problems (such as prior victimization, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders) that may have preceded the violence but require mental health services, and the difficulty of involving victims in follow-up studies after the completion of treatment. Variations in the context in which mental health services are provided for victims of domestic violence (such as isolated services, managed care programs, and services that are incorporated into an array of social support programs, including housing and job counseling) also require attention. Topics of special interest include contextual issues, such as the general lack of access to quality mental health services for women without sufficient independent income, and the danger of psychiatric diagnoses being used against battered women in child custody cases.