Obstacles to Victims' Cooperation With the Criminal Prosecution of Their Abusers: The Role of Social Support


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Abstract

Over the last 20 years, diminishing tolerance for domestic violence has triggered significant criminal justice reforms designed to facilitate the prosecution of abusers. Prosecutors, for example, have adopted policies requiring that cases go forward even if the victim later has second thoughts. Although increasingly common, these “no drop” policies reflect a profound irony about domestic cases that is well known but little understood: the most formidable problem in prosecuting such cases is often the victim's own unwillingness to bring the abuser to justice.This prospective study explored a range of factors potentially predictive of domestic violence victims' cooperation with the prosecution of their abusers. Although the study focused on interpersonal and institutional social support, it also investigated the influence of violence severity, victim demographic factors, and victim mental health characteristics, including the presence of depressive symptoms, emotional dependence on the abuser, and substance abuse. Findings showed that tangible support, severity of violence in the relationship, and the presence of children in common with the abuser all significantly predicted victims' cooperation with the prosecution of their abusers. Substance abuse significantly predicted victims' noncooperation with prosecution. The research and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

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