Weak Penalties Lead to Repeat Cases of Domestic Violence: Recommended Reading

Feb 12, 2013, 1:29 PM

A new study funded by Public Health Law Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at Temple University, addresses the consequences of weak penalties for domestic violence offenders in the U.S.

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, accounts for an estimated 1,200 deaths and two million injuries among women each year. The new study, authored by Frank Sloan, PhD, professor of health policy and management at Duke University, and published in the journal Risk and Uncertainty, reviewed data from the North Carolina administrative courts and found that there are often repeat offenses for men arrested for domestic violence and that penalties don’t seem to significantly reduce repeat arrests or convictions.

Sloan points to low prosecution rates and minimal fines as reasons behind many repeat offenses. The study did find, however, that defendants who hired a private lawyer are less likely to be arrested or convicted during the follow-up period because the added costs may be a deterrent.  

Deterring domestic violence is critical not just for victims but for children in households where there is abuse, according to a research brief on the study released by the Public Health Law Research Program:

There is evidence that domestic violence has long-term adverse effects on children of victims and/or batterers, including child maltreatment; delayed progress in school; increased likelihood of inflicting emotional and/or physical harm on others including children; drug and alcohol abuse as adults; and poor health outcomes as adults.

Video interview with Professor Frank Sloan on public health law approaches to deterring domestic violence.

>>Read the study (subscription required).

>>Watch a video interview with Professor Frank Sloan.

>>Bonus Link: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued final recommendations that call for clinicians to screen all women of childbearing age for intimate partner violence and provide or refer women who screen positive to intervention services.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.