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Domestic Violence

How does the criminalization of domestic assault fit into an overall societal trend toward crime?

The trend toward criminalization of domestic assault was a representative of a wider shift toward a change in societal perspective regarding the use of social controls to deter crime.  The traditional policy of non-intervention I domestic violence was viewed as less effective, and there was a great need to institute reforms that would offer the necessary deterrence.  Deterrence became the dominant policy in controlling and preventing crime. Political pressure, scholar discourse and failure of previous methods fueled the shift which supported the use of arrests as the core focus of the criminal justice.

Are there logical, less intrusive, alternatives to arrest for many situations?

Although the arrest is one of the most common and effective responses to domestic violence, there are other logical and less intrusive alternatives.  These alternatives include presumptive arrest, diversion programs, and non-coercive no-drop prosecution.  Victim empowerment models are also effective in helping the victims recover from the consequences of the violence.

How has deterrence theory been applied to domestic violence intervention? How well do you think it has worked?

The theory of deterrence has applied in domestic violence.  The premise to the application of deterrence theory to domestic violence is that arrest can serve as sufficient punishment to prompt changed behavior.  Based on the learning theory, the immediate punishment for a crime is likely to deter deviant behaviors. In domestic violence cases, being labeled publicly as a “wife beater” and attendant fear of social isolation and ostracism reduces the rate of offenders repeating the offenses.  In addition to deterring current offenders, arrest also deters potential offenders.  This is based on the “logical,” assumption that potential offenders weigh the benefits and costs of their benefits of their possible action before committing an offense.

Should the characteristics of a victim impact the police responses to a domestic violence incident? Why or why not?

The behavior and demeanor of the victim influence the interaction between the police officers and the victim.  Police officers react to the traits and the conduct of a victim. For instance, in cases where an officer views a victim has exhibited “deviant” lifestyle, the likelihood of arrest decline.  Additionally, a victim who is viewed as conforming to the societal norm is likely to have her assailant arrested. Often, police officers are required to make rapid decisions and judgments in unclear circumstances. In the face of these uncertainties and ambiguous information, police have no option, but to make judgments on the behavior of the victim.  However, the use of officer “judging” to influence the response of an officer introduces some level of bias.  The officer may rely on his or her belief system regarding the behavior of a victim to make judgments.

Should we expect that organizations to vary in how they handle domestic violence calls? Is that appropriate?

Organization variations affect how various organizations handle domestic violence.  Attributes such as the geographical characteristics, demographic characteristics and other factors affect how various police departments and organizations respond and handle domestic violence.  For instance, a police department in a rural area may have longer response time compared to an urban police department that has a small geographic area to cover. Additionally, some departments may have specialized units to handle domestic violence while others may not have such capacities. Differences in the demographic composition may also influence response.


Buzawa E., Buzawa C & Stark E (2011). Responding to domestic violence: The integration of criminal justice and human services. SAGE Publications.

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