Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nearly One in Four Intimate Partner Violence Cases Involved a Child Witness

/PRNewswire/ -- A child witnessed violence in 22 percent of intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today. In another 14 percent of intimate partner violence cases, a child was present at the time of the incident but did not directly witness the violence.

Intimate partner violence includes violence between spouses, ex-spouses, common-law spouses and current or former boyfriends or girlfriends. Forty-six percent of intimate partner violence cases involved a defendant with a prior history of abuse toward the same victim, and the victim had reported prior violence to police in 24 percent of all cases. A direct witness to the violence was present in more than 40 percent of intimate partner violence cases.

Most intimate partner violence cases involved either aggravated (12 percent) or simple (78 percent) assault. Defendants were charged with intimidation (including stalking) in five percent of intimate partner violence cases, and another two percent were charged with rape or sexual assault. Most offenses occurred either at the victim's own residence (21 percent) or at a residence shared with the defendant (58 percent).

Twenty-six percent of defendants used a weapon during the incident. Female defendants (41 percent) were more likely than male defendants (24 percent) to use a weapon during an incident of intimate partner violence.

Eighty-nine percent of victims sustained an injury during the incident. Most injuries were of a less severe nature, while nine percent sustained severe injuries, such as gunshot and stab wounds, rape, severe lacerations and broken bones.

The majority of intimate partner violence cases (84 percent) involved a male defendant and a female victim, while twelve percent involved a female defendant and a male victim. The defendant and victim were the same gender in four percent of intimate partner violence cases. Cases with a male defendant and female victim were more likely than others to involve a history of abuse between victim and defendant. A child was also more likely to have witnessed the violence in these cases.

More than half of defendants charged with intimate partner violence were convicted. Cases in which the defendant made a formal statement for the record were twice as likely to result in conviction as those in which no statement was made. Other characteristics that increased the probability of conviction were the presence of a third-party witness to the incident and a documented history of abuse between the victim and the defendant.

This information comes from the BJS study, Processing of Domestic Violence Cases in State Courts, which used prosecutor files and court records to analyze 3,750 intimate partner violence cases. Case characteristics and outcomes of felony and misdemeanor intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts of 16 large urban counties during May 2002 were examined. Cases were tracked for one year following the defendant's first appearance in court.

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