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NIJ's Program of Domestic Violence Research: Collaborative Efforts to Build Knowledge Guided by Safety For Victims and Accountability of Perpetrators
Bernard Auchter and Bethany L. Backes Violence Against Women 2013 19: 713 DOI: 10.1177/1077801213494703 The online version of this article can be found at: http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/19/6/713
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VAW19610.1177/1077801213494703Violence Against Women X(XX)Auchter and Backes
NIJ’s Program of Domestic Violence Research: Collaborative Efforts to Build Knowledge Guided by Safety For Victims and Accountability of Perpetrators
Bernard Auchter1 and Bethany L. Backes2
Violence Against Women 19(6) 713–736 © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1077801213494703 vaw.sagepub.com
Abstract The primary focus of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Violence Against Women (VAW) research and evaluation program has been domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV). The program has supported over 200 studies that have centered on definition and measurement, victims and perpetrators, children, contexts and consequences of domestic violence, and civil and criminal justice interventions and processes responding to these crimes. Funding approaches in the program have employed grants for research and evaluation, demonstration programs with partner agencies, joint funding of research through interagency agreements, and collaborations with agencies and organizations sharing common objectives. Results have influenced policy and practices, particularly results from those studies conducted by researcher–practitioner collaborations. NIJ’s success in the development and progress of this program is attributed to the initial vision that included researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in an ongoing discourse about what is known and needs to be known. The terms domestic violence and IPV are used interchangeably throughout the article. Keywords domestic violence, federal funding, violence against women
Institute of Justice (Retired), Bethesda, MD, USA Institute of Justice, Washington, DC, USA
Corresponding Author: Bernard Auchter. Email: email@example.com
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Lenore Walker’s The Battered Woman, published in 1979, offers an early point of reference for the significant amount of domestic violence research that would follow. This was years before any reliable national data on the extent of wife assaults, but Walker estimated that “one out of every two families contains violence.” The violence, she suggested, was “almost always committed by a man against a woman” (Walker, 1979, p. 252). The first major attempt to rigorously measure these crimes on a national level, but not with a focus on criminal behavior or justice so much as a focus on partner conflict tactics (Straus, 1979), appeared in the same year as Walker’s research. Domestic violence research focused on criminal justice concerns came to the forefront in the 1990s, when the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began receiving funds on an annual basis through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA, see Auchter & Moore, this issue). Recent data suggest that more than one third of women in the United States (35.6%, or approximately 42.4 million) have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. One in three women (32.9%) has experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 in 10 (9.4%) has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Approximately 5.9%, or almost 7.0 million women in the United States, reported experiencing these forms of violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to being surveyed (Black et al., 2011). Despite funding a variety of targeted programs under the VAWA, the statistics on the prevalence and incidence of domestic violence remain staggering and indicate a need for continued interventions as well as the systematic study of the impact of these interventions and the underlying causes and contexts of these crimes. Over the past 18 years, the steady flow of funds designated for VAW research was essential to building NIJ’s research portfolio on domestic violence and supporting a range of domestic violence studies on topics such as child custody, batterer intervention, victim services, prevalence and incidence, and policy and program evaluations. Some of the influential work undertaken by NIJ includes collaborative efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in developing and conducting the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000) and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) (Black et al., 2011) in an effort to measure the incidence and prevalence of domestic violence. The NVAWS remains a frequently cited source and has been analyzed in a large number of secondary analyses. Despite progress made in furthering our understanding of intimate partner violence (IPV), a number of challenges remain that inhibit the development of a cumulative body of knowledge.
Definitional and Measurement Advancement and Challenges
The field has worked for several years to better understand the dynamics of IPV and determine how to best define and measure the behavior. Although progress has been made in the creation of comprehensive definitions and guidance for the collection of key data points (Saltzman, Fanslow, McMahon, & Shelley, 2002), there remains a
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need for continued refinement of this guidance to inform current and future research and practice. Regardless of the availability of such guidance, the implementation and subsequent results when adhering to current recommendations for defining and collecting data on domestic violence must be gauged on an ongoing basis.
Definitional Advancement and Challenges
There have long been definitional issues and controversy in domestic violence and other areas of violence against women (Crowell & Burgess, 1996; DeKeseredy, 2000; Saltzman et al., 2002). Legislative definitions, executive branch definitions, and independent researcher definitions have frequently differed, or their definitions were simply conforming to a task at hand or available data provided a definition for them. The term “domestic violence,” while continuing in use, has not provided clarity in many cases. The term “intimate partner violence” is also used interchangeably with “domestic violence” in the NIJ program, and the terms are used synonymously in this article as well. The VAWA provides a detailed definition for domestic violence: “the term ‘domestic violence’ includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other adult person against a victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies” (Violence Against Women Act, 1994). While somewhat complex, it is this definition with which NIJ’s work began. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at CDC recognized the need for a uniform definition for domestic violence and in March 1996 held a panel meeting of experts that included representation from NIJ to address IPV. Despite efforts across the field to develop consensus on the use of a singular definition, definitions are still numerous and often adapt to include new methods of victimization, such as technology-based abuse. Furthermore, definitions are framed by specific paradigms and it can be difficult to establish agreed-upon terms and parameters when developing and refining definitions. For example, the CDC considers domestic violence, “a serious, preventable public health problem,” which clearly asserts their public health paradigm (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012). On the other hand, others may define domestic violence from a criminal justice or legal perspective. NIJ’s current definition on their website is somewhat simpler than CDC’s. It states, “Historically called ‘domestic violence,’ ‘intimate partner violence’ (IPV) describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner or spouse” (“Intimate Partner Violence,” 2007). NIJ provides more context by adapting CDC’s definition and goes on to note types of partners, consequences, relevant factors, and prevention. Included are definitions of physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, psychological violence, and stalking. However, it is
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important to note that the definitions NIJ provides are for general public use and are not required to be incorporated into any extramural research studies the Institute funds. Therefore, definitions continue to be dissimilar.
Definitional issues and question wording in surveys are at the crux of challenges in measurement. Without consistent definitions, it is difficult to examine trends over time and compare data across populations and jurisdictions. Furthermore, inconsistency in definitions and question wording contribute to a misunderstanding of research results and statistics being cited without context. Social science measurement instruments offer several different lenses for observation of domestic violence; however, they measure different perspectives such as conflicts, crime, or health, making it difficult to compare results. While there are a host of screening and survey instruments that can be used in assessing domestic violence (Thompson, Basile, Hertz, & Sitterle, 2006), there are only a few survey instruments that have provided national-level data on the incidence and prevalence of IPV. They include the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), and more recently, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). Since 1973, the NCVS has collected criminal victimization data twice a year from a nationally representative sample of households. The NCVS provides crime trend data and captures crime that is not reported to the police. The Federal Bureau of Investigation supports crime incident data collection through the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and a Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). The National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is an extension of the UCR and is a law enforcement reporting system that captures detailed data on victimization incidents. However, not all jurisdictions participate in the reporting system. Although NIBRS is not nationally representative, it does provide a great deal of data on specific crimes such as domestic violence and is often used to better understand the context and complexities of both perpetration and victimization. NIJ has supported research studies to conduct secondary analyses of these data sets pertaining to IPV, honing in on a number of key correlates and consequences of the crime (Dugan & Mattingly, 2005; Gallup-Black, 2004; Macmillan & Kruttschnitt, 2004; Lauritsen & Heimer, 2009). NIJ played a key role in the development of the NVAWS and NISVS with results from the former used widely to inform what is known today about the prevalence of domestic violence over the lifespan. NISVS was launched in 2010 to describe the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and IPV (Black et al., 2011). NIJ continues to play a role in the refinement of the instrumentation and analysis of results. Although NIJ has been involved in national-level efforts to measure domestic violence as a criminal offense, the Institute has also supported the development and testing of other measurement tools that may include various psychological, behavioral, and emotional correlates of the crime. For example, NIJ has supported research in this complex area through studies on the development and validation of
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instruments relating to risk assessment, lethality, and coercive control (Dutton, Goodman, & Schmidt, 2005; Roehl, O’Sullivan, Webster, & Campbell, 2005). The use of these measures has enhanced the protection and safety of abused women and has increased our understanding of the dynamics underlying IPV.
NIJ’S Research Program on Domestic Violence
Building on the domestic violence definition and measurement advances, the NIJ program has examined victim, perpetrator, and system issues. A number of NIJ domestic violence studies were conducted before 1995, most notably the policing spouse assault studies. But research on IPV at NIJ witnessed a significant increase with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act mandated a number of studies including a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report “to develop a research agenda to increase the understanding and control of violence against women.” Other mandated studies that NIJ responded to addressed data collection, stalking, the confidentiality of domestic violence victims’ addresses, and the validity and use of evidence concerning battering and its effects in criminal trials (Violence Against Women Act, 1994). Both the NAS report, Understanding Violence Against Women (Crowell & Burgess, 1996), and another 2 years later on Violence in Families (Chalk & King, 1998) had a major influence on guiding NIJ’s research on domestic violence. All of the early solicitations for research directed attention to these documents, urging applicants to have a familiarity with both reports. As the program progressed, these reports continued to be frequently used references and guideposts; and in 2002, a NAS workshop on violence against women was held to expand on the earlier volume and reexamine the research gaps. This 2002 workshop report also responded to a Congressional request for a research agenda and it provided NIJ with an array of broad recommendations (Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin & Petrie, 2004). Along with the mandated studies and the NAS reports, another critical element of the research program involved a particular approach that has been sustained over the years. The approach assumed that the expertise needed was frequently outside of NIJ, and so convening a body of experts—researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, along with key government officials—was the route to gaining the most useful ideas, getting buy-in from all stakeholders, and building relationships with potential collaborators. This approach of convening meetings, workshops or roundtables has been an integral part of the domestic violence program and of others in the overall violence against women program. Not only through workshops but in other ways as well, coordination and collaboration with other federal agencies became a standard practice. An early example of NIJ joint support and collaboration involved a 1996 interagency effort with the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) along with seven other Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and NIH agencies or institutes. This collaborative formed the Interagency Consortium on Violence Against Women and Violence within the Family. Ten applications were
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funded out of this consortium and half of them were directly on domestic violence issues. NIJ managed the studies on protection orders and Native American partner violence and served as the planner and convener of an annual meeting of the research consortium grantees (for more, see Auchter & Moore, this issue). Interagency collaborations continue to be a critical part of the program for both funding efficiency and to reach a broader audience. The description of the areas within the domestic violence research program that follow is not intended as a comprehensive review of all the studies NIJ has supported on this subject, but rather provides a broad view of key fields of study in the program, NIJ operations, and relationships with collaborators and other funders. The topical sections that follow represent primary areas of research within the program on IPV. A complete listing of NIJ-funded studies in the area is available in the Compendium of Research on Violence Against Women (National Institute of Justice, 2011).
Research on IPV Victims and Survivors: Services, Context, and Consequences
The NIJ program of research has supported studies examining the experiences of domestic violence victims and survivors, including issues pertaining to custody and visitation; physical, emotional, and financial consequences; help-seeking; and service delivery. In addition, a number of studies have evaluated criminal justice responses, victim services, and policies impacting victims and have examined the cultural contexts of domestic violence. As a result of legislative mandates, NIJ has often had to expand its research focus to areas such as studying the extent of intimate partner and dating violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women (see Crossland, Palmer, & Brooks, this issue). Furthermore, in planning its research agenda, NIJ involves the domestic violence advocacy field and survivors of domestic violence to provide input on the need for and potential implications of research. Programs and Services for Survivors. One of the larger areas of study under NIJ’s domestic violence research portfolio includes the study of programs and services for survivors. Included in this is the examination of responses to victims by the criminal justice system and other community-based services. A recently released report evaluated an early engagement intervention that showed a positive impact on survivor experiences and criminal justice outcomes (DePrince et al., 2011). A combination of studies has examined the effectiveness of lethality and risk assessment instruments with ongoing research focused on the implementation, evaluation, and validation of a lethality assessment-based intervention. Findings demonstrate the utility of such instruments in identifying intimate relationships with high-severity abuse and potential for reabuse (Roehl et al., 2005). Service needs of victims and the effectiveness of existing resources such as civil protection orders, legal services, and shelter-based services have been studied (National Institut of Justice, 2011). A recent study on protective orders showed a divide between accessibility of obtaining and enforcement of orders between urban and rural women.
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Rural women experienced more difficulty in obtaining orders and were less likely to see them enforced (Hawkins, 2010). This same study also provided detail on issues of intimate partner stalking indicating that victims reporting stalking are more likely to have their orders violated and had higher levels of fear and distress (Hawkins, 2010). A 2007 study pertaining to shelter services reported that close to 75% of victims rated their services received at shelters as being “very helpful” and documented the complex and varying needs of shelter-based service recipients as it relates to demographic characteristics (Lyon, Bradshaw & Menard 2011; Lyon, Lane, & Menard 2008). A series of studies have focused on the victim impact of domestic violence offender prosecution as well as the level of victim engagement with the prosecution team (Belknap & Sullivan, 2002; Finn, 2003; Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003; NIJ, 2011). Funded research centered on specialized domestic violence courts indicated benefits to this model—in particular, being more victim-centric with increased offender accountability, enhanced victim safety, and quicker case processing (Gover, MacDonald, Alpert, & Geary, 2003; Hartley & Frohmann, 2003; Labriola, Bradley, O’Sullivan, Rempel, & Moore, 2009). Context and Consequences. NIJ has dedicated a large portion of the VAW research program to examine contextual factors of IPV and the immediate and long-term impact of the victimization. Studies have covered issues such as the impact of sexual violence in the context of domestic violence, custody evaluator beliefs and impact on custody decisions, help-seeking trajectories, and victim experiences in terms of demographic and cultural characteristics. For instance, in examining the help-seeking experiences of Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino women it was found that level of acculturation greatly impacted use of criminal justice services. Also, these women were more likely to use community services and networks as opposed to criminal justice services (Yoshihama, Bybee, Dabby, & Blazevski, 2010). Recent work on contextual and attitudinal factors influencing custody decisions looked broadly at appointed custody evaluators, judges, and victim experiences (Davis, O’Sullivan, Susser & Fields, 2011; Saunders, Faller, & Tolman, 2011). Although NIJ’s mandate is specific to criminal justice, many of the crimes falling under the violence against women research program, including domestic violence, are closely tied to health, mental health, and legal disciplines. This allows noncriminal justice constructs to be incorporated into studies providing a more comprehensive picture of the nature and consequences of IPV. A significant strength of the domestic violence research portfolio is its breadth in examining the crime in multiple contexts. Socioeconomic and demographic characteristics have been explored in-depth by NIJ-funded studies as have risk factors and victimization impact. Although results at times varied across studies and had differing samples, key findings include: •• Negative physical and mental health consequences of victimization include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), increased risk of substance abuse, and lower self-esteem (Bassuk et al, 2001; DeMaris & Kaukinen, 2005; Goodwin, Chandler, & Meisel, 2003);
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•• Age, race, poverty, unstable employment of perpetrator, and marital disruption are associated with increased risk of violence (Benson & Fox, 2001; Carlson, Worden, van Ryn, & Bachman, 2000; Macmillan & Kruttschnitt, 2004); •• Domestic violence has been shown to result in economic consequences such as the inability to find and/or maintain employment and homelessness (Benson & Fox, 2001; Lyon et al., 2008). Overall, NIJ has greatly contributed to the knowledge base regarding domestic violence interventions at the community and system levels as well as provided a greater understanding of key correlates and consequences of domestic violence. NIJ should continue to focus on evaluating new and emerging interventions, especially as they pertain to comprehensive and culturally appropriate services. Although useful in establishing a foundation in this field of study, many of NIJ’s funded projects on domestic violence were completed a number of years ago and are limited in their present-day usefulness. There is a need to expand on this foundational knowledge by considering changes in policy and legislation, emerging models of service delivery, and diverse attributes and characteristics of victims. Stalking Research. A number of studies have attempted to measure stalking frequency and its impact on victims. Initially, the NVAWS reported lifetime prevalence rates of stalking at 8% for females and just over 2% for males (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). A supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey estimated stalking to impact 14 in 1,000 adults each year (Baum, Catalano, Rand & Rose, 2009). Population-based data from the NISVS indicates that one in six women has experienced stalking at some point in her lifetime and more than 5 million women were stalked in the 12 months prior to taking the survey (Black et al., 2011). The extant research literature has documented stalking incidence rates at or above 14% among adult women (Logan, 2010). Furthermore, stalking rates have been found to be high among college women, with more than 5% reporting being stalked by an intimate partner over a 7-month period (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Based on NISVS results, a majority of stalking perpetrators (66.2%) are reported to be a current or former intimate partner. NIJ’s earliest inquiry in this area was in the late 1980s when the term stalking was not in common use, at least in existing laws. Our research with Park Dietz focused on mentally disordered offenders, who pursued members of Congress and Hollywood celebrities (Dietz, Matthews, Martell et al., 1991; Dietz, Matthews, Van Duyne et al., 1991). Then in 1993, a year before the VAWA, Congress directed NIJ to develop a model antistalking code for guidance to the states. It was critical that this model code be able to pass constitutional muster and be enforceable. This effort, advised by a diverse group of experts, compared existing state legislation, developed the model code, and recommended a research agenda that included both a policy focus and basic research on the pathology of stalking (National Criminal Justice Association [NCJA], 1993). A followup report 14 years later by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) responded to the “new realities” of stalking. The NCVC document noted that stalking laws across the nation have been challenged on constitutional grounds, but have been repeatedly
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upheld. The report acknowledged the survey research that provided the first picture of stalking on a national scale as well as the technological advancements that had taken place that may facilitate the crime of stalking (NCVC, 2007). Relevant funders did not quickly pursue comprehensive action on the 1993 stalking research agenda. Stalking research that NIJ has supported over the VAWA years has been limited, but stalking has been addressed through several studies that focused on victim needs and criminal justice needs and processes. Perhaps of greater significance was NIJ funding of studies and surveys that included stalking as one aspect of broader research inquiries. These included the national surveys noted above; research on partner violence and protection orders (Logan, Walker, Hoyt & Faragher, 2009); the development and comparison of risk assessment instruments (Roehl et al., 2005); and summaries of the extant research (Klein, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). So, when stalking behaviors became questions that were routinely posed to interviewees or captured in police reports, much more was learned about stalking, stalkers, and the larger context of this crime. It is now recognized that stalkers are potentially a more dangerous group of interpersonal offenders and, given this, continued research on the crime is imperative. NIJ commissioned a summary document on stalking to synthesize existing research and provide context to this issue in preparation for a 2010 research meeting on stalking (Logan, 2010). The research workshop on stalking (http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/ stalking/stalking-research-workshop-summary-june-2010.pdf) identified gaps and provided a host of research and evaluation questions to be addressed. This document will remain useful and important for several years to come. Since stalking increases the need for victim protection and safety, it is a priority for ongoing research on the victim, the offender, and the criminal justice response. Research on Batterers and Batterer Intervention. While victim protection and safety have been major foci of NIJ’s domestic violence research, the perpetrator of these crimes has also been a focus with a series of evaluations of interventions. The NAS report, Understanding Violence Against Women, addressed the batterer research area as part of their inquiry and noted that intervening with batterers in order to change their behavior emerged as a reaction to frustration among shelter workers who saw women revictimized after returning home to an unchanged male partner, or saw the batterer move on to a new victim. Intervention programs that attempt to reduce and eliminate men’s abusive behaviors toward their partners have become widespread and are now the usual sentence coupled with a probation term. Evaluations of interventions for batterers, along with some of the specialized enhancements to these weekly sessions, became a dominant focus of NIJ’s efforts in studying domestic violence perpetrators. Basic questions, such as do they work or do they keep victims safer, required answers. The search for rigorous evaluations was clear to researchers responding to our requests for proposals. One researcher noted the “tremendous pressure . . . to document the effectiveness of batterer programs” and the emergence of “what amounts to an evaluation ‘craze’” (Gondolf, 2002, p. 28). There was an increasing demand for evidence-based practice and NIJ was expected to
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provide the evidence on program efficacy. Most of NIJ’s sponsored research in this area has been directed toward determining the effectiveness of batterer intervention programs (BIPs), including BIPs that had enhancements such as a fatherhood focus, mental health services, or a program designed specifically for African American men. While many BIP evaluations have been conducted, they have yielded inconsistent findings. There continues to be debate about the effectiveness of BIPs and the important implications this has for the safety of battered women and their children. Existing research has pointed to involvement in other criminal activity by many domestic violence offenders (Klein, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). Further NIJ research examined these offenders longitudinally and revealed that 32% of the sample reabused within a year, but over the next decade 60% reabused and almost three fourths were arrested for either a domestic abuse or nondomestic abuse crime. Not only does this study provide a fuller picture of perpetrators, it also suggests that a 1-year follow-up is insufficient in tracking offender behavior (Klein & Tobin, 2008). In addition to the funded research and evaluation studies, NIJ’s contributions can also be seen in the workshops convened and in print and web publications. One of NIJ’s earliest publications was a review titled, Batterer Intervention: Program Approaches and Criminal Justice Strategies. This document provided a review of the relevant issues and practices for criminal justice personnel and batterer program staff. It was a broad, comprehensive overview of the field and set the stage for later, more specific, research inquiries (Healey, Smith & O’Sullivan, 1998). In January 2002, NIJ sponsored its first batterer intervention workshop entitled, “Batterer Intervention: Where Do We Go From Here?” The goal of this workshop was to identify issues currently hindering evaluations of BIPs. One outcome of the workshop was the recognition of the explicit need for additional research to better understand the phenomenon of battering and how to better control batterers, including the use of BIPs. One of the attendees, Julia Babcock, has conducted a meta-analysis of the batterer program research and she concluded that overall, effects due to treatment were small (.10), meaning that current interventions have a minimal impact on reducing recidivism beyond the effect of being arrested. In practical terms, Babcock noted that the effect size of .10 translates to a 5% improvement rate in cessation of violence due to treatment. Babcock added that while a 5% decrease in violence may appear insignificant, it does represent perhaps 42,000 women per year in the United States who are no longer being battered as a result of their abusers’ treatment (Babcock, Green & Robie, 2004; “Batterer Intervention,” 2002). NIJ also published documents on the results of two evaluations of batterer programs in 2003. These reports summarized results by stating that batterer intervention programs do not change batterers’ attitudes and may have only minor effects on behavior (Jackson et al., 2003). This view did not differ much from the results of the Babcock meta-analysis or the research review of the 1996 NAS panel that noted, “findings were somewhat positive, but they must be cautiously interpreted due to many methodological shortcomings” (Crowell & Burgess, 1996, p. 132). Two other major studies also acknowledge this general finding of only a minor program effect and the lack of methodological rigor in many studies. One was a CDC commissioned study on an
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Evidence-Based Review of Batterer Intervention and Prevention Programs (Morrison et al., 2003) and the other is a meta-analysis (Feder & Wilson, 2005). Feder and Wilson (2005), however, present a more negative conclusion by stating that they failed to find strong or consistent support for the ability of programs to reduce further assaults. There appears to be little optimism in these quantitative research results. A recent NIJ effort on batterer intervention involved partnering in a December 2009 roundtable on “Batterer Intervention: Doing the Work and Measuring the Progress” with the Family Violence Prevention Fund (now Futures Without Violence) and “The Woods” Charitable Foundation. The roundtable involved researchers and practitioners and was motivated in part by their differing perspectives on the impact and efficacy of BIPs. Those involved in doing the BIP facilitation work generally saw better results than the quantitative research revealed. A number of useful ideas emerged from the discussions for both research and practice (“Batterer Intervention,” 2009). A summative view of the batterer intervention work and research could note the refrain “one size does not fit all” and acknowledge the need for differentiation in treatment based on an individual’s characteristics and needs. However, even if differentiation in treatment holds some promise, it may be extremely difficult and costly to implement. NIJ’s primary attention in the batterer area has been in contributing to evaluation studies, and in recent years less attention to the batterer has permitted a greater focus on victim issues. While there remains a host of unanswered questions in this area, for the moment it appears that BIPs are primarily an invitation to change with the hope, of course, that participants will follow through and actually change their violent behavior. Research often focuses on attempts to understand the failures in society, batterers in this case. However, a current NIJ study from a different perspective will hopefully offer a new view of the problem by looking at why offenders desist from IPV (National Institute of Justice, 2011, see 2011-WG-BX-0001). In furthering research in this area, a 2008 special issue of Violence Against Women on Intervening with Domestic Violence Offenders remains a useful guide. It presents the results of several NIJ-supported studies and also suggests a research agenda on the domestic violence offender, interventions, and the context of these crimes (Auchter, 2008). Domestic Violence and Children. A year before the VAWA, the Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) established a Family Violence Working Group, with NIJ as chair, to coordinate the work of the various OJP bureaus. The next year, when the Violence Against Women Grants Office (VAWGO) was created to administer the state and local grant provisions of VAWA, they became a member of the working group. Given the focus of this agency-wide working group and an interest in incorporating the broader family perspective as well as the new violence against women focus, NIJ called its new program the Violence Against Women and Family Violence Research and Evaluation (VAW & FV R&E) Program. These were the years before NIJ had a dedicated budget for VAW research, 1994 to 1997. Subsequently, the VAW program took on greater prominence and increased funding and NIJ began to receive research funds earmarked exclusively for VAW issues.
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NIJ has often deferred to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for Department of Justice research support concerning children. There are exceptions. NIJ supported research on child abuse and neglect as factors in later delinquent behavior and adult criminality. NIJ was also an initial supporter of research on the waiver of juveniles to adult courts. And evaluations of OJJDP programs are often managed by NIJ in part to maintain a distance between a program and evaluator agency. NIJ’s support of research concerning children or juveniles has usually had a connection to adults or criminal justice case processing. Given that domestic violence has a clear connection to children, NIJ has been among the supporters of this research. These connections have been from a number of perspectives: children as a factor in the family dynamic; children as witnesses of domestic violence; the co-ocurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment; children as part of custody decisions when domestic violence is a factor; and teens involved in romantic relationships that are violent. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway, approximately 22 states and Puerto Rico address in statute the issue of children who witness domestic violence in their homes (“Child Witnesses,” 2009). The problem and the impact of children witnessing domestic violence became readily apparent when the states, starting with Utah in 1997, introduced legislation on the issue. By some definitions, witnessing became child maltreatment and was directly linked to the co-occurrence issue. Spousal assault and child maltreatment had been addressed as separate problems that were handled by different social agencies and organizations. A review of the research revealed that in the majority of co-occurrence studies it was found that domestic violence and child maltreatment co-occur from 30 to 60% of the time, with a median of 40% overlap (Edleson & Malik, 2008). NIJsupported research that used the records of families referred for child welfare investigations of child maltreatment essentially concurred with this estimate, finding that they had a 44% lifetime prevalence of domestic violence. This study also revealed that child welfare workers identified only 9% of this domestic violence (Kelleher et al., 2006). Through yet another lens, a nationally representative sample of dual-parent households, researchers found that an estimated 15.5 million children lived in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year (McDonald, Jouriles, Ramisetty-Mikler, Caetano, & Green, 2006). With this heightened awareness of the co-occurrence problem and the emergence of recommendations from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges embodied in a report that came to be known as the Greenbook (Schechter & Edleson, 1999), Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) officials began planning what would become an 8-year multiagency demonstration program to address the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment. After a rigorous selection process, six communities were selected to receive program funds to address their domestic violence and child maltreatment co-occurrence problem by developing close collaborations among three key components: juvenile and dependency courts, child welfare agencies, and local domestic violence organizations. Coordinating the efforts of three very different organizations with very different goals was not a simple task. Child
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welfare agencies are charged with the protection of children and have traditionally placed responsibility for a child’s welfare on the available parent, usually the mother. Similarly, dependency courts work with child welfare agencies to investigate and respond to charges of child abuse and neglect, often without addressing other family violence that may be occurring in the home. Domestic violence services are usually provided by nongovernmental organizations with a focus on assisting and empowering battered women and are concerned that child welfare agencies do not revictimize abused women by blaming them for not protecting their children. NIJ was responsible for the evaluation of the Greenbook Initiative, an evaluation of how the six communities implemented Greenbook recommendations and garnered the lessons learned that could be transferrable to others. The expectation was that the three key organizations in the collaborative, by virtue of their common interests concerning women and children, would successfully work together to address the co-occurrence problem. The evaluation produced several reports that assessed progress over the years and drew lessons learned from the program. The conclusion of the demonstration also saw the publication of the July 2008 special issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. That journal issue included articles discussing the experiences of each organizational component, collaboration issues, and reflections by the original Greenbook framers on their vision, the process, and the lessons learned (Edleson & Malik, 2008). The experience in the six sites shows the efforts of the partners and the conflicts they addressed in what were sometimes challenging collaborations to respond to the co-occurrence problem in their jurisdictions. The collaborations themselves were viewed as one of the major accomplishments and produced changes in practice at the level of work with families and children (ICF International, 2008). Prevention was clearly in mind when past NIJ Director Jeremy Travis suggested that answers to domestic violence lie in “how we raise our boys and our girls.” The intent of the work that he initiated with CDC, the central federal agency focusing on prevention, as well as Attorney General Holder’s efforts addressing Defending Childhood, are intended to interrupt a cycle of domestic violence by promoting prevention strategies beginning in the earliest years. By 2009, comprehensive national survey data on children’s exposure to violence were published. The data confirm that most of our society’s children are exposed to violence in their daily lives with more than 60% of the children surveyed exposed to violence within the past year. Regarding family violence, 1 in 10 (10.2%) suffered from child maltreatment and nearly 1 in 10 (9.8%) saw one family member assault another (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Hamby, & Kracke, 2009). Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood initiative drew momentum from these data and from other related efforts within DOJ agencies, establishing this major prevention initiative. Simultaneously, NIJ funded two projects examining custody decision making when domestic violence has been documented. Both studies examined the practices and recommendations made by custody evaluators and how beliefs about domestic violence impact such recommendations. One study found that the courts generally upheld custody evaluator recommendations; however, recommendations were inconsistent across evaluators and evaluators lacked general knowledge on domestic violence (Davis
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et al., 2011). Saunders et al. (2011) found that although judges, evaluators, and attorneys were knowledgeable of the prevalence of domestic violence and children’s exposure, they had little understanding of postseparation violence or domestic violence screening, including danger or lethality assessments. Results from these studies indicate a need for continued research in this area, such as the long-term impact of these decisions on children as well as training for judges, prosecutors, and evaluators. Criminal Justice Reforms. NIJ’s research and evaluation programs are intended to address the needs and improvements in the criminal justice system. Solicitations for research and evaluation on domestic violence have sought answers to various policy, process, and programmatic changes. Are they working? Do they reduce crime or improve case processing? Are the reforms transferrable to other jurisdictions? What are the costs and benefits? However, the conduct of rigorous research in the field of criminal justice, with all parties in agreement on a particular research design, is not an easy matter. Even with agreements in place, as a research study progresses, key stakeholders may change or the commitment of the existing stakeholders may change, making the original design difficult or impossible to pursue. Experimental design studies are most no table in regard to these difficulties. There are a host of implementation problems that may arise in the conduct of a randomized controlled trial (RCT), including ethical issues, selection bias, slower than expected sample intake, and attrition from treatment (Davis & Auchter, 2010). As the VAW program matured, our oversight of RCTs became more intensive in order to protect investments and to modify designs that maintained integrity and expected utility. RCTs presented largely ethical issues in the research on protection orders. While NIJ began to support research on protection orders over 20 years ago (Finn & Colson, 1990), attention to victim satisfaction and protection order effectiveness came later. A study in three sites found a deterrent effect of protection orders based on interviews with the women who filed the orders. The study also suggested that protection orders help victims regain a sense of well-being (Keilitz, Hannaford, & Efkeman, 1997). A few years later, NIJ research involving a retrospective cohort study of 2,691 Seattle women concluded that permanent, but not temporary, protection orders are associated with a significant decrease in police-reported violence against women by their male intimate partners (Holt, Kernic, Lumley, Wolf, & Rivara, 2002). While this research excluded temporary orders from the associated decrease in violence, the earlier Keilitz, Hannaford, and Efkeman (1997) study did acknowledge benefits from even temporary orders. These benefits included a victim’s use of the court to influence the abuser’s behavior and the opportunity for courts and service providers to educate victims regarding safety planning and protection (Keilitz, Hannaford, & Efkeman, 1997). More recent research on protection orders addressed gaps in our knowledge of their effectiveness, enforcement, and cost effectiveness. The study addressed both rural and urban areas in Kentucky and, among other key results, found that protective orders are less effective for stalking victims. A range of costs was examined and the study found that overall protective orders saved the state US$85 million a year (Logan, Walker, Hoyt, & Faragher, 2009). These, along with other protection order studies that NIJ
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supported, provide policymakers and practitioners with useful evidence to maintain and enhance efforts to keep spouse abuse victims safer. NIJ had a focus on spouse assault and arrest for domestic violence even before the VAWA. The research program created as a result of VAWA built on this related work conducted in the prior years. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment and the subsequent Spouse Assault Replication Program (SARP) established one avenue of inquiry that the program would take. These examinations of police response to domestic assaults with arrest, counseling, or separation of the partners for a number of hours led to the arrest policies program under VAWA that encouraged jurisdictions throughout the nation to favor arrest in response to domestic violence (Maxwell, Garner, & Fagan, 2001). This research was also a catalyst for further research on law enforcement responses to domestic violence on issues such as dual arrest, specialized domestic violence units, and coordination with other relevant systems such as social services or prosecution. NIJ’s portfolio has looked broadly at the impact of policing interventions and strategies and court-related programs to address domestic violence. Key studies on arrest have centered on the impact of specialized policing units, training for law enforcement, and coordinated criminal justice responses to domestic violence incidents (Friday, Lord, Exum & Hartman, 2006; Jolin, Feyerherm, Fountain, & Friedman, 1998; Roehl, 1997; Uchida, Putnam, Mastrofski, Soloman, & Dawson, 2001; Wordes, 2000). Findings indicated that coordinated responses and specialized policing units had a positive impact on domestic violence cases, particularly cases of repeated abuse. Many of these studies created partnerships between local researchers and law enforcement in order to develop tangible solutions in responding to and screening domestic violence cases. Some studies went further in their research to examine collaborative responses by the criminal justice system, from arrest to prosecution and sentencing outcomes (Allen et al., 2009; Worden, 2001). Research pertaining to the criminal justice response to domestic violence also included an examination of the impact of mandatory arrest and no drop policies on prosecutorial and recidivism outcomes (Orchowsky, 1999; Smith, Davis, Nickles, & Davies, 2001). NIJ and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) staff discussed criminal justice processing of domestic violence in great detail and planned a collaboration that would involve a major demonstration program with the local court as the central figure in a coordinated community response to domestic violence. In 1999, OVW awarded funds for the Judicial Oversight Demonstration (JOD) to three communities—Dorchester, Massachusetts; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Washtenaw County, Michigan—to integrate enhanced judicial oversight into their existing coordinated responses to domestic violence. The demonstrations involved strengthening partnerships and building new ones between the court and other agencies, including the prosecutor’s office, victim service providers, batterer intervention programs, police, and probation. The goals were to enhance victim safety and access to services and increase offender accountability. NIJ supported the evaluation of JOD through a competitive grant to the Urban Institute and both process and impact evaluations were conducted. It is difficult to measure the attention and influence that a federal demonstration program receives
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while underway, but this effort was in the limelight for at least 6 years with researchers and practitioners paying attention to the inputs and outputs in the three sites. In the final analysis, the victims in these sites “had a significantly lower risk of physical assault than victims in comparison sites.” However, on the perpetration side of this crime, the JOD conclusion is that “until progress is made in changing offender(s) . . . the justice system must continue to focus on protecting victims and . . . closely monitor offenders” (Harrell, Visher, Newmark, & Yahner, 2009, p. 21). These results along with NIJ’s other domestic violence court research have provided the judiciary with useful ideas and insights for improving and enhancing a court’s response to domestic violence. Evidence on criminal justice reforms in responding to and managing domestic violence cases has been communicated in a variety of ways, both by the researchers who have conducted the studies and by NIJ. Under Policy and Practice Implications below, formats that NIJ has found effective in presenting statistics on domestic violence and evidence on criminal justice reforms for policy and practice are discussed in more detail.
Policy and Practice Implications
Prior to VAWA the most widely known example of domestic violence research influencing policy and practice was the work of Sherman in Minneapolis that resulted in a recommendation for arrest in domestic violence misdemeanor cases. The results of the Minneapolis experiment were published in newspapers throughout the nation and influenced police departments throughout the nation as well. Replication of the research was called for and the subsequent spouse assault replication program in five jurisdictions found that arrest was associated with less repeat offending in the five measures of repeat offending that were used in the study (Maxwell et al., 2001). Influential results like these, based on random design in multiple sites, have not been conducted in regard to other criminal justice processes that focus on domestic violence. However, since VAWA, NIJ has had a focus on summarizing and synthesizing domestic violence research with practitioners as the primary audience. Syntheses of the extant research across various fields of practice were a priority at the start of the program, and they were written by researcher–practitioner teams (NIJ, 2011). The relevance of NIJ-funded research for policy and practice has long been an important criterion in the review of proposals and in the decision to award a grant. The “so what” question was always anticipated in the proposal review process. That is, if the proposal was awarded a grant and the research was carried out successfully, what might the field do differently given the results of the research—what are the practice implications? Solicitations encourage researcher–practitioner collaborations and those that have developed long-term relationships have usually produced results having policy or practice use. While some research studies go well beyond a final report to NIJ and a few academic articles, the exceptional studies may conclude with those expected products along with a series of presentations to various practitioner audiences and publishing
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aimed at the policy and practice audience. Most of those exceptional studies have been the ones that were initiated as a true collaboration between a researcher and a practitioner. In recent years, NIJ has had an annual solicitation to specifically encourage more such collaborations that are developed to produce results that can be applied as well as offer generalizable strategies to others. Currently, NIJ is funding an ethnographic study and historical review of researcher–practitioner partnerships in the violence against women field to identify both successes and failures in these collaborations. Recent awards studying IPV include collaborations with police departments, victim services agencies, and courts. For example, a study examining the effectiveness of coordinated outreach in intimate partner cases relied heavily on the participation of victim advocates, prosecuting attorneys, and law enforcement (DePrince et al., 2012). Without this partnership, the coordinated outreach intervention would not have been studied. Given the dedicated research funds received via VAWA and the collaborations formed, NIJ has supported and developed a large body of research on domestic violence. In 2008, NIJ capitalized on this body of research and made three practicefriendly reports available that summarized this research for criminal justice practitioners—law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges. The basic format for the reports was one that the author, Andrew Klein, had used in a statewide training he conducted for probation officers. He shared the approach with NIJ and a new dissemination format was introduced. The format was straightforward: a topic in the form of a question; a brief discussion of the research relevant to the question; and implications of the research for practice. The development of this research-to-practice volume was done with sensitivity to both accuracy of the research and the needs and interests of practitioners. Criminal justice practitioners generally do not have time to read full research reports and, while they may understand the general findings, they often do not know how they could incorporate the new information into their daily practice. By the same token, many researchers may find it difficult to translate research to practice as they do not have a daily practice of working with offenders, victims and case processing. This format gave practitioners a readily usable reference document, and it gave researchers a new perspective and method of summarizing a body of research (Klein, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). These reports on The Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research represent a prime example of NIJ’s bridging the gap between research and practice on domestic violence. The structure of the review process on these drafts was critical. As the drafts of each report became available, they were reviewed by an anonymous researcher and three practitioners, who provided written reviews and participated in a conference call with the author and the NIJ manager. For example, the draft policy review report for law enforcement included a police chief, a supervisor of a police domestic violence unit, and a law enforcement domestic violence trainer. The three separate documents for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges were merged into a single electronic report that is posted at the NIJ website and includes many footnotes linking to the source documents for those who may want more detail on a particular question or study (Klein, 2009). Practitioners, researchers and those
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who conduct training have all remarked positively on the value of these research summaries for practice. Reactions also suggested the need for a similar document for domestic violence advocates and service providers and such a document is forthcoming. The collective support of NIJ working with OVW, OVC, and DHHS in developing this next report will ensure that it reaches and informs the broadest audience (Klein & Hart, 2013).
In what direction should a crime and justice research agenda on domestic violence move in order to build upon the knowledge base that now exists and bring new solutions to light? A comprehensive research agenda is not suggested here, but rather a few topical areas that are believed important to pursue. However, a comprehensive, multiyear research agenda that builds on the existing research and involves relevant federal and nonfederal organizations would certainly be useful in maintaining momentum and direction on critical violence against women issues. Despite the effort to fund measurement-specific research, NIJ has a limited portfolio in this area. Gaps include the cross-cultural adaptation of measures to assess for IPV, including development of sensitive question wording as it pertains to same-sex IPV, race and ethnicity, and cultural beliefs and norms. Advancing definitional and measurement knowledge in this area will not only provide a more comprehensive picture of IPV, but will also expand the parameters under which this topic is studied. Broadening calls for proposals to support investigator-initiated research on measurement is an important next step to building knowledge in this area. Also, given adequate sample sizes in existing population-based data sets, the continued support of secondary data analyses will efficiently use funds and provide additional context on subgroups. While NIJ’s limited funds may need to focus more on research that has practice relevance, more basic and long-term research issues also need to be addressed. In this regard the 2004 National Research Council report, Advancing the Federal Research Agenda on Violence Against Women, continues to offer productive directions. That report calls for studies on social ecological factors, deterrence, the conduct of longitudinal studies, and improving definitions and data. NIJ may find the high cost of such research to be prohibitive, so pursuing these with other interested funders offers one strategy to realize progress on these more basic research topics. In regard to the more immediate practitioner needs, research on several topical areas, including examinations of the intersection of domestic violence with workplace, health, and financial security are encouraged. Needed intervention studies include attention to child issues in the domestic violence context, particularly at the point of custody and visitation determinations and arrangements when relations between partners may be at their most challenging and adversarial. And given the heightened dangerousness among stalkers in intimate partner relationships, evaluation of policies, practices and innovative interventions aimed at stalking behavior is recommended. Finally, the ongoing need to strengthen the research-to-practice connection needs to be seen more as an inseparable bond. Continuing the important funding for
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researcher–practitioner partnerships at NIJ and continuing to develop documents and other media that draw the practical implications of research for practitioners remain critical. NIJ’s recent Director, John Laub, expressed an interest and desire to go beyond the conventional “research to practice” idea through translational criminology, with a concentrated focus on dissemination and implementation studies. While funds for such an expansion may be difficult to garner, moving in this direction would ultimately have value to the field.
Criminalizing domestic violence has promoted progress in addressing the problem. It brought a private conflict into a larger societal and legal context. It raised the bar regarding expectations of intimate partners with conflicts and identified tactics they should not be using to resolve their conflicts. Criminalizing domestic violence created a broader awareness of this behavior as unacceptable. Criminalizing domestic violence has also provided a barrier set by nearly two generations of living with these laws, a barrier that prevents a return to the days of regarding violence “behind closed doors” as a private matter. Criminalizing domestic violence also ensured that it was a focus of NIJ research. NIJ has been and continues to be concerned with how much there is, how prevalent it is, how best to address it, and how to reduce and prevent it. Research, including studies sponsored by NIJ, has had a key role in this societal progress. NIJ’s scientific work, along with that of CDC, other DHHS offices, and many nongovernmental efforts, has made domestic violence more visible and it has provided criminal justice and victim service providers with useful information, ideas, and programs to continue the progress toward greater safety and protection for victims and better accountability of perpetrators. Authors’ Note
The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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Bernard Auchter, MSW, was a senior social scientist and occasional division director at the National Institute of Justice before retiring in 2012. His 36 years with NIJ included management of research on crime prevention, prosecution, adjudication, white-collar crime and, in his last 16 years, violence against women. He was a recipient of The Attorney General’s Award in July 2000 for his work on the violence against women program. Bethany L. Backes, MSW, MPH, is a social science analyst at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Her areas of expertise include sexual violence, intimate partner violence, researcherpractitioner partnerships, and program evaluation. She currently manages the violence against women program of research at NIJ.
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