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Domestic Violence - Future Of The System's Response To Domestic Violence

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One of the most promising developments in the prevention and treatment of domestic violence is research on batterer typologies. Despite popular misconceptions, all abusers are not equally dangerous, nor are they all alike. It is estimated that only two percent of the total male population is repeatedly severely abusive to women in any given year (Dutton). Most men arrested for domestic violence are low-risk offenders, and are violent only with family members. Those who pose the greatest risk often have extensive criminal histories, including property crimes, drug or alcohol offenses, and violent offenses against nonfamily victims (Dutton). This research will help law enforcement to better screen cases and develop interventions that account for the differences among abusers. In addition, research on the relationship between violence and biomedical conditions is likely to lead to treatments for abusers that involve both medical and behavioral therapy.

The criminal justice system also needs to expand its understanding of domestic violence beyond the male abuser/female victim model and to provide adequate protections for all victims regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Further research into why most men do not engage in intimate violence is imperative to understand what role gender does play in domestic violence.

Only time and solid research will tell if the criminal justice system can successfully reduce domestic violence. None of the initiatives described above will work in isolation. The best research suggests that a coordinated community response, which involves police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, probation officers, victims' advocates, treatment providers, and medical professionals, is essential. And, while both lethal and nonlethal intimate violence declined in the 1990s, so too has nondomestic violence. Thus, we must be cautious before attributing progress solely to more aggressive criminal intervention. Nevertheless, many remain optimistic that treating domestic violence as a serious public crime and not a trivial family matter will make for a safer society.

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