, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 22-39

Third party roles in intimate partner violence incidents and their effects on police response in a statewide rural jurisdiction

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Using police narratives and affidavits, as well as incident report forms, this paper examines the neglected research topic of third party involvement in intimate partner violence and reports findings that differ from previous research done on the subject as a secondary topic. After identifying two analytically distinct roles of third parties, those of complainant and eyewitness, the study finds that the presence of complainants and eyewitnesses alone has no effect on police arrest dispositions. However, arrest is increased significantly when eyewitnesses become complainants or provide sworn statements. Other mafor findings of the study were: (1) the importance of the heretofore disregarded role of family members as third party witnesses; (2) the relative insignificance of marital status among cohabiting victim-offender couples on reporting and disposition; (3) the relatively small percentage of witnesses who are victimized; and (4) the greater willingness of witnesses to provide sworn statements against offenders with past versus current relationships to the victim.

This paper was presented at panel session on “Domestic Violence and Law Enforcement Interventions” at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in Las Vegas on March 11. The study was facilitated by a Norwich University Board of Fellows Award and a Norwich University Research Grant. I would like to express my appreciation to the Vermont Department of Public Safety and the Vermont Crime Information Center for providing access to the Vermont Incident-Based Reporting System and for their cooperation throughout the project.