Domestic Violence: An Evaluation of the Violence against Women Act of 1994
Domestic violence affects thousands of people each year. In the United States, there were 7,047 cases of domestic violence reported in 2005. According to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008, domestic violence and intimate partner violence affected some 6.2 million women in the United States. Domestic violence results in psychological damage, physical injury, death and other damages. Unfortunately, the problem of domestic and family violence continues to grow in the United States (American Bar Association, 2005, pp. 1-18).
In the past, victims of domestic violence kept quiet about abuse. Their pleas for help fell on deaf ears and society looked the other way. Today, victims of all ages, genders, and ethnicities have a stronger voice. Our criminal justice system recognizes domestic violence as a crime in which federal and state legislation prohibits domestic violence, making the offense a chargeable criminal offense (Grovert, 2008, pp. 1-41). This paper is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Violence against Women Act of 1994 as a deterrent for men to commit acts of violence against women through a methodological triangulation.
Review of Literature
Domestic violence is the act of violence and abuse of a partner. In an examination of research over the past 30 years on domestic violence, Grovert (2008) concluded that women are more likely to be the victim of assault, rape or murder by a male partner than by any other type of assailant (Grovert, 2008, pp. 1-41). Domestic violence occurs in all economic, ethnic, and social backgrounds. The criminalization of violence against women started in 1920, but did not improve until the 70s when criminal justice systems began developing methods to enforce domestic violence (Sacco, 2014, pp. 1-43). In 1994, the enactment of the Violence against Women Act in the United States was a legislative landmark aimed at reducing domestic violence in female populations (Grovert, 2008, pp. 1-41; Sacco, 2014, pp. 1-43).
Prior to 1994, domestic violence was a criminal offense that many failed to report, because of fear of retaliation, economic situation, 12% reported they wanted to protect the offender, and another 34% felt it was a personal matter (Durose, Harlow, Largar, Motivans, Rantala, & Smith, 2005, pp. 1-6). In a fifty-state survey conducted by the American Bar Association in the United States, between 1995 and 1996, 1.3 million women were the victim of domestic violence in the 90s (ABA, 2014). The Bureau of Justice researchers conducted survey research on family violence in 1998 and 2002 and concluded that 73% of family violence was committed against females while 75% of the cases involved a male perpetrator (ABA, 2014; Durose, et al., 2005, pp. 1-6).
The research statistics and findings from the Bureau of Justice, FBI, U.S. Department of Justice on domestic violence, and victim statistics provided data that influenced legislative changes to reduce domestic violence (National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2014, pp. 1-3). In response to domestic violence in the United States, former President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violence against Women Act of 1994. The landmark legislation enabled grants, funding, reporting systems, national hotline, and federal office to work in conjunction with the Department of Justice to oversee and enforce the act (National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2014, pp. 1-3; Sacco, 2014, pp. 1-3). In 2013, a reauthorization of the act was completed. The reauthorization provided more protections for victims including the addition of 660 laws in 2000, and other methods to reduce domestic violence. Evaluation research conducted by the Bureau of Justice researchers on the legislation concluded that the numbers of women reporting domestic violence rose from 48% in 1993 to 59% in 1998 (ABA, 2014, Durose, et al., 2005, pp. 1-6; National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2014, pp. 1-3; Orchowsky, Johnson, Parisi, & Wagner, 1999, pp. 1-266).
Reducing Domestic Violence with Criminal Justice
As concluded by the Bureau of Justice researchers in 2005, after the Violence against Women Act was enacted in 1994, more women than ever before began reporting domestic violence. The researchers concluded that approximately 60% of family violence offenses were reported between 1998 and 2002 (Durose, et al., 2005, pp.1-6). Consistent with the research conclusions of the Bureau of Justice researchers (2005), Sacco determined that reporting increased after the Violence against Women Act reauthorization in 2000 that enabled anti-stalking provisions and orders of protection for victims of domestic violence (Durose, et al., 2005, pp.1-6; Sacco, 2014, pp. 1-43). Additionally, the prosecuting of offenders increased safety for many victims, which has also increased incentives for others to report the offense (National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence against Women, 2014, pp.1-3).
According to the Bureau of Justice researchers (2002), 11 large counties in state courts prosecuted and convicted some 1,500 defendants while in federal courts reported a 90% conviction rate for interstate domestic violence cases. Keeping this in mind, the research reviewed in this section is sufficient to infer that the Violence against Women Act of 1994 increased the number of victims reporting domestic violence and reduced the domestic violence rate (Durose, et.al, pp.1-18, 2005; National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, 2014, pp.1-3; Sacco, 2014, pp.1-43).
Problem, Theory, Variables, and Hypothesis:
As domestic violence has increased in the United States, so have efforts to reduce and prevent domestic violence. The focus of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of domestic violence policies and efforts. The landmark legislation, the Violence against Women Act of 1994 provided rules and regulations that made domestic violence a criminal offense with severe consequences for offenders. Keeping this in mind, the legislation is consistent with classical criminology and the specific deterrence theory in which crime is deterred by swift, certain and severe consequences (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003). The problem with legislation and domestic violence is the need for more research to measure the effectiveness of legislation in reducing domestic violence.
Problem Statement: Many researchers conduct research on domestic violence in which statistical data about the crime, offender and victim is measured. However, limited research is available that evaluates the impact of domestic violence legislation in reducing and deterring domestic violence.
Theory: The problem associated with domestic violence is that the act is a crime. Legislators develop policies to punish offenders, prevent and deter the act of domestic violence. With this in mind, the specific deterrence theory serves as the ground theory to evaluate the effectiveness of the Violence against Women Act of 1994 in deterring and reducing domestic violence.
Independent Variable: For this study, the independent variables include, stipulations and technicalities provided under the Violence against Women Act of 1994. Specifically, this includes punishment, implementation and the determination on the part of the victims to pursue a criminal complaint against their abusers. The measures for independent variables are measured against the dependent variable of domestic violence in which positive and negative correlations are scored to measure the effects that the variables have on each other.
Dependent Variable: The dependent variable for this study is identified as the incidence of domestic violence is measured against the independent variables. The variables selected provide data to measure the effectives of the law on Violence against Women Act of 1994 in deterring the growing incidence for the commission of crimes against women.
Hypothesis: The following hypothesis were specifically formulated for this study:
Hσ1: That the law on Violence against Women Act of 1994 has not been effective in reducing the incidence of domestic violence.
Hσ2: That punishment is not an effective deterrent for men in committing crimes.
Hσ3: That the failure of the law on Violence against Women Act of 1994 is significantly cause by the failure to pursue prosecution of the offenders because of the withdrawal of victim’s complaint.
Hα1: That the law on Violence against Women Act of 1994 has effectively reduced the incidence of domestic violence.
Hα2: That punishment is an effective deterrent for men in committing crimes.
Hα3: That the failure of the law on Violence against Women Act of 1994 is caused by poor implementation of the law enforcers.
The proposed study benefits from a methodological triangulation research design to study and evaluate the effectiveness of the Violence against Women Act of 1994 in its ability to reduce and deter domestic violence in women. The study consists of an analysis of the domestic violence reports made by women from 2008-2012. The reports will center on the incidence of domestic abuse reported during the period specified in this study. This will provide for the clarification of the first hypothesis. At the same time, the research will also give specific attention on the number of criminal cases filed against the abusers by the complainant. This will clarity and establish the third hypothesis. Additionally, the independent variable as established by a survey on 120 men shall be incorporated to the study. The questionnaire refers to the reaction of men towards the concept of punishment and legal accountability. This will be utilized to establish whether the provisions of the law as far as punishment is concerned is an effective deterrent for the commission of a crime. The result of this particular part of the triangulate shall establish the second hypothesis.
Population / Sample:
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Buzawa, E. & Buzawa, C. (2003). Domestic violence: A criminal justice response. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications, Inc.
Durose, M., Harlow, C., Largar, P., Motivans, M., Rantala, R., & Smith, E., (2005). Family
violence statistics: US Department of Justice Programs: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
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Grovert, A. (2008). Domestic violence against women: A literature review. pp. 1-41. Retrieved
National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women (2014). The
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Orchowsky, S., Johnson, C., Parisi, L., & Wagner, K. (1999). Domestic violence and sexual assault data collection systems in the states. pp. 1-266. Retrieved from, http://www.jrsa.org/pubs/reports/dom_full_report.html