Changing Marital Status and Desistance from Intimate Assault

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SYNOPSISObjectives.This study examined whether the odds of subsequent domestic violence by married men are reduced when women file for divorce, and whether these odds are further influenced by the timing of divorce proceedings.Methods.The sample included 703 married men arrested for misdemeanor assaults on spouses in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio. Logistic regression models were estimated to determine whether men with divorces filed against them (after entry into the study) were less likely to be re-arrested during a fixed 24-month follow-up period. A survival analysis of differences in time to re-arrest for men with filed divorces versus those without was also conducted, as well as an analysis of the speed of divorce filings and re-arrest.Results.Only 24% of all offenders had divorce papers filed in court during the study period. Divorce filings coincided with (1) lower likelihoods of re-arrest for intimate assault, (2) lower likelihoods of re-arrest during each month of follow-up, and (3) longer delays to re-arrest (for those who ultimately re-offended). Shorter delays to divorce filings (after initial arrest) were more effective for reducing likelihoods of subsequent assault, particularly within the first 11 months after entry into the study.Conclusions.Findings have implications for victim support services offered through domestic violence courts. Evidence from this and future studies may provide additional incentives for support personnel to identify and overcome the barriers preventing many women from successfully filing for divorce. However, the study should be seen as offering preliminary findings on a potentially important issue.

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