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Effects of the No-Drop Policy: Analysis of Victims of Domestic Violence

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Domestic violence affects thousands of families, and most cases are not reported. People who are exposed to domestic violence live in an environment full of fear and captivity, which stops them from reporting their abusers. Victims tend to not report their victimization because they do not want to be exposed or judged by society. Victims of domestic violence are exposed to different types of abuse, included but not limited to physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, financial, and/or sexual abuse. Because domestic violence can happen to everyone and anywhere, the justice system decided to treat this issue as a crime rather than a private family matter. Traditionally, domestic violence was not recognized as a crime neither by the criminal justice system nor by society, until 1994 when Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The VAWA enforced state and federal laws with the purpose of providing support and protection to the survivors of domestic violence.

It is believed that people are most likely to be abused by a loved one, rather than a stranger. Because some victims decide to accept and justify the abuse they suffer rather than seeking help, millions of abusers do not get the punishment they deserved. Existing research findings suggest that women are most likely to report abuse rather than men. Some male victims believe the authorities will question them more than women if they report their victimization. In other words, male victims believe women victims are most likely to receive help and not be judged as compared to them. Moreover, victims of domestic violence who decide to report their victimization tend to drop their case. Because domestic violence cases are often dropped by the victim and not by the prosecutor, the general population called for a change. Therefore, the no-drop policy arose with the intention to prosecute abusers even when the victim no longer wants to cooperate. Some people claim the no-drop policy increases the rates of convictions, but others argue it stops people from reporting their victimization. The purpose of this paper is to expose whether the no-drop policy places victims in greater danger, or whether it increases victim’s safety.

Literature Review

It is hard to believe that domestic violence affects people of all ages, race, ethnicities, sexes, and social class. Victims of domestic violence live under fear and isolation, and they feel blame themselves for their victimization. Some victims believe they deserve to live under those conditions. Others feel the need to leave their abuser, but many factors stop them from reporting their victimization. While others obtain strength to report their abusers; however, their guilt or fear is sometimes stronger and make them drop the case.

History of the No-Drop Policy. Over the decades, domestic violence did not exist, women did not have rights, and men were the only ones who were able to make decisions. Men had the power to control and punish women when they feel they were misbehaving. It was not until the early 1870s where the United States began to recognize domestic violence as a crime to be punished. Because domestic violence cases were often dropped, people demanded a change. The no-drop policy was created not only with the purpose of punishment but with the purpose of teaching others that their acts have serious consequences. According to the article, “No Drop Prosecution & Domestic Violence: Screening for Cooperation in the City That Never Speaks” by DeCarlo (2016), the no-drop policy in domestic abuse cases gives the prosecutor the power to become the affected party. In other words, the prosecutor has the capacity to control the prosecution, and the victim has no longer control over the case. If the victim decides to leave the case, the prosecutor has the power to continue with the case. The benefits from the no-drop policy are mostly for the prosecutor since it contributes to the conviction rates, but the victims are left behind.

Potential Causes of Dropping the Case. Women and men are equally likely to suffer domestic violence. However, men are most likely to not report the abuse, and women are most likely to drop the case. According to the article, “Stay With or Leave the Abuser? The Effects of Domestic Violence Victim’s Decision on Attributions Made by Young Adults” by Halket et al. (2014), studies do not often explore and analyze the negative attributions that influence victims to stay in an abusive relationship, leave an abuser, or drop the case. The article provides two studies were young adults explain their experiences and what influenced them to stay with their abuser. Other provide information they decided to leave and report their abuser, but later they decided to withdraw the case. Some of the reasons provided by the victims felt they were blamed for being abused, or they were scared of being placed in greater jeopardy. Others reported they dropped the case because their abusers promised them they were going to change, and others felt they could not leave without them.

The article “Perpetuating the cycle of violence in South African low-income communities: attraction to violence in young men exposed to continuous threat” by Hinsberger et al. (2016), states that the victims of domestic violence are prone to develop traumatic disorders. Victims’ emotional condition often influence their need to withdraw charges or refuse to testify against their abuser in court, as a consequence many abusers are set free and capable of re-offend. The cycle of violence theory influenced the victims’ determination to drop the case since the abusers make them believe that they are willing to change their violent behavior. Therefore, the no-drop policy makes offenders to pay for their crime even if their victims no longer want to collaborate.

Stakeholders. The no-drop policy has positive and negative impacts, but the party that obtains the most benefits is the prosecution. The no-drop policy often leaves the victims on the side meaning that they do not focus on victims’ needs and opinions, but they rather punish the abusers. The author Schafran (2015) affirmed in the article, “What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts?” that the victims’ testimony is important in a case. However, the prosecutors argue that they can still use testimonies from experts’ witnesses, physical, and circumstantial evidence to prosecute the abuser (Mourges et al., 2014). Domestic violence victims, prosecutors, and the community have a legitimate interest in the decisions, implementations, or changes that are made regarding the no-drop policy. Studies such as the case of a victim of sexual abuse where the absence of a support person influence their need to drop the case (McAuliff et al., 2015). Victims who feel the lack of governmental support, their likelihood to refuse to testify against their abuser is higher as compared to those who received support. The victims who receive support and received an explanation of the process were also most likely to continue with the case. The community has also interest in the no-drop policy implementation since the aggressors will receive the punishment they deserve, and this will also prevent future offenses.

Possibilities for Intervention. Violence is illegal and recognizing the victims and abusers can sometimes be complicated. Researches show that because many victims of domestic violence do not have the support and resources necessary to initiate a lawsuit, they rather not report the offense (Crocket et al., 2015). The no-drop policy prosecutes abusers of domestic violence even without the victims’ collaboration. Prosecutors provide conviction rates which they state that the no-drop policy is effective on punishing criminals; however, it puts pressure on victims. Even though the supporters of the no-drop policy state that this policy does not put pressure on victims, it is not completely true. Opponents argue that victims feel pressure and exposed since the prosecutors use medical reports, pictures, and videos in court (Mourges et al., 2014 & Antrobus et al., 2016). The presence of physical evidence is important in a case, but the victims’ testimony gives more detail and clear understanding of how the crime was committed.

In the eyes of the criminal justice system, the no-drop policy is believed to be effective. However, in the eyes of the victims and the general population, the no-drop policy is mostly beneficial for the prosecution. The victims feel exposed, judged, and sometimes they feel in greater jeopardy. The no-drop policy is in need of implementation where all the stakeholders’ opinions, needs, and propositions are heard.

Policy Analysis and Critique

Domestic violence is not just a woman’s issue, but rather a society’s issue that needs to be solved. Domestic violence is a form of abuse that places victims at a high risk of been killed; therefore, policies had been created with the purpose of protecting victims. According to the Criminal Justice System, the no-drop policy was created with the purpose of protecting victims by prosecuting the offenders even if the victims refuse to proceed with the case. The no-drop policy (also known as the evidence-based prosecution) was first used in the 1980s, but it was not widely practiced until 1990s; after prosecutors reported high dismissal rates of domestic violence cases (Champagne, 2015). Compared to stated that have not adopt the no-drop policy, the dismissal rates of domestic violence cases have decrease. However, opponents argue that it is possible that the dismissal rates are not accurate since the no-drop policy produces fear on victims. As a consequence of the fear, many victims choose not to press charges against their aggressors.

The no-drop policy is believed to be effective by the justice system and supporters because studies had proven that the domestic violence cases are not drop as they used to before. However, the no-drop policy is also believed to impede victims from reporting their abused because they realize that once the case is on file, they no longer have control over the case. In other words, the prosecutor becomes the affected party and the victim is just a witness to the case (DeCarlo, 2016). There are cases where the victims’ testimony if not needed to proceed and charge the aggressor. When the evidence presented by the prosecutor is not clear, needs more details, or explanations, the victims’ testimony becomes indispensable. Under those circumstances, the victims are obligated to cooperate, and they received subpoenas from the court judge. Opponents to the no-drop policy argue that this policy does not protect victims, instead it places them in more vulnerable conditions to be victimized. For example, DeCarlo (2016), victims are considered as the primarily witness; therefore, they are subpoenaed to testify in court. If the victims do not appear in court to testify against their aggressors, the judge might issue an arrest warrant against the victim. It is sad that the no-drop policy is mostly beneficial for the prosecution than for victims. Victims instead of receiving protection from the system, they are charged for choosing not to proceed with their own case.

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Potential Causes of Dropping the Case. According to Halket et al. (2014), studies only focus on the numbers of domestic violence cases that were not drop when the prosecutor applies the no-drop policy. This proves that the statistics based on dismissal of domestic violence cases are not accurate since studies do not investigate and compare the rates between the victims who were informed of the consequences of leaving the case, and the victims who received no information or support from the system. It is important to look at the reasons that obligate victims to dismiss the case or to refuse to testify against their abuser in court. If a victim does not receive information about their rights, how the system will protect them from the abuser, and the consequences of leaving the case, the victim is at a high risk of dropping the case. Studies such as Halket et al. (2014), suggest that victims who were well informed about the negative effects of dropping the case, will most likely continue with the case. In fact, the victim’s testimony will provide specific details and clear explanation about the abuse they suffered, and they will help the prosecutor to proceed with the case faster. However, this is not always the case, and many victims choose to drop the case because they lack support from the system.

Victims argue that they decide to drop the case not only because they lose control over their own case, but because they feel fear for their safety and or their family and friends’ safety. According to the victim survivors of domestic violence, the no-drop policy does not provide them with support and the help they expect from the system (Halket et al., 2014). Because the prosecution becomes the affected party, the victims feel pressured, in greater jeopardy, ignored, and judged by society. As a result of the combination of those feeling, the victims are prone to develop traumatic stress disorders, but the prosecution does not care about their mental status. The prosecution only cares about making someone to pay for the crime being committed. They want to add another “successful” prosecution to the list and at the same time make people believe that the no-drop policy is the best solution to solve domestic violence cases. Halket et al. (2014) studies also expose the reasons that influence victims to drop their case. Some victims argue that society blame them for their victimization. In fact, the media plays an important role in victim-blaming and dismiss of domestic violence cases. The media holds victims responsible for their own victimization by stating that victims put themselves in those situations when they decide to engage in an abusive relationship. However, victims should never be blame for their victimization because instead of helping them get strength to testify against their aggressors in court, people will be influencing on the victims’ decision on leaving the case.

Victims need to be heard and their opinions should be taken into consideration regarding the case. Because victims are the ones who directly suffered the pain, the persecutor should not be the affected party. Victims often tend to drop the case not only because of fear or shame, but also because they become victims of the cycle of violence (Hinsberger et al., 2016). In other words, the victim’s abusers make them believe that they are very sorry for having an abusive behavior towards them, and they want to change because they love them. During the process of dropping the case, the abusers are loving and caring. However, once the case is dropped, the abusers tend to become more aggressive towards the victims. Supported of the no-drop policy argue that the dropping a domestic violence case can be more dangerous that continuing with the prosecution. In fact, Hinsberger et al. (2016), states that based on the data collected and analyzed for the study, fatal injury and homicide rates are higher in people from the ages of 15 to 29 years old. In some cases, it can be hard for the judge to decide whether to continue with the prosecution or whether to allow the case to be dropped by the victim. Even if the prosecution continues or drops, the victims are often place in greater jeopardy (Messing, (2014) The no-drop policy does not directly protect victims, instead it places them in a more vulnerable situation to be victimized and rejected by society. Opponents also argue that when the prosecution adopts the no-drop policy, the prosecutor does not care about punish the abuser. The only purpose of the prosecutor is to find someone to blame and pay for the crime even if the victims refuses to cooperate.

Stakeholders. The no-drop policy can be seen as a great policy, but it still needs implementations to reach the desire goals. The no-drop policy should be redesigned with the purpose of protecting victims, rather than only focusing on prosecuting the offender. Since the prosecutor is the affected party and the victims are witnesses, the prosecutor needs to also focus on the needs of the victims. Schafran (2015) argues in the article, “What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts?” that victims’ testimony is important to solve a domestic violence case; therefore, by not avoiding it the testimony negative consequences can result. For example, victims can explain the emotional, psychological, and physical pain the aggressors caused. They can also tell the judge and the jury how the violence started and what prohibited them from reporting the abuse the first time the aggressor injured them. Even if the prosecution provides real evidence, direct evidence, and/or circumstantial evidence, the jury still needs testimonial evidence to affirmed that the evidence presented to the court is relevant to the case (Mourges et al., 2014). Testimonial evidence is considered relevant and reliable; therefore, in some cases, it can only be clarified by the victims because they are the only ones who witnessed the events.

Domestic violence victims, prosecutors and the community are considered stakeholders in the no-drop policy since they are all affected when a change is made. They have an equal interest in the decisions, implementations, and changes make on the policy because some will be negatively affected while others receive the most benefits. In the no-drop policy, the party that received the most advantages, as exposed throughout the paper, is believed to be the prosecution. In the other hand, the victims and the community are often negatively affected (Jackson, 2015). For example, victims of domestic violence are blamed and punished when they refuse to testify against their aggressors, while the community members tried not to report their abuse because they do not want to go through the same process as the people who choose to report their abuse.

According to McAuliff et al. (2015), when a victim of domestic violence does not receive governmental support, they are more prone to drop or refuse to testify against the aggressor in court. As compared to victims who receive support and are informed of the consequences that they will face if they decide to drop the case, they are most likely to cooperate with the prosecution. For example, when children are the victims, their testimony can be easily excluded. The prosecutor will claim child victims are less accurate, trustworthy, and the admitting of their testimony can negatively affect the prosecution. They will also claim that children can confuse the jury since they are not able to clearly narrate the events, and this will make the aggressor to be seemed less guilty. However, if the victim receive support, or they feel someone is next to them to give them comfort, the victims tend to narrate the event more fluently. As a consequence, the need for a no-drop policy will not be demanded.

Possibilities for Intervention. Research such as the study performed by Crocket et al. (2015), show that the lack of support and resources provided to the victims of domestic violence forbid many victims from reporting their aggressor. This also influence their need to drop the case because they feel that the system does not care about their needs and feeling, but they only care about prosecuting someone for a crime. Because prosecutors inform conviction rates to the public, they want to make them believe that the no-drop policy is effective because it punishes criminals. They support their statement by showing statistical rates that show that domestic violence cases are not dropped because the prosecutors control the case, and not the victims. Unfortunately, the victims are pressured and exposed.

Mourges et al. (2014) and Antrobus et al. (2016) suggest that the exposure of videos, pictures, medical reports, and witnesses’ testimonies make the victims feel dehumanized. Even if the victims choose not to continue with the case, they are still exposed and judged. Some victims and opponents to the no-drop policy argue that the policy needs either be implemented or be dropped because it is not effective on providing support and justice for the victims. Instead of receiving support and help, the victims are brought to court for perjury charges. Victims are already going through very traumatic situations, and they do not need to be charged for their victimization. Therefore, the no-drop policy should not give the prosecutor the power to control the prosecution or to become the affected party. For example, if judge considers appropriate for the prosecutor to control the prosecution, then the victims should be able to decide what information would be presented in court. If the victims’ attorney considers the information essential to solve the case, the victims should receive a a therapy where a legal counselor explains the victims that the evidence she or he wants to disclose can help the abuser to be released.

Policy Alternatives and Recommendations

It is unhuman to charge a victim for their victimization regardless of the crime they were victimized. Domestic violence victims are often charged for not appearing to court to testify against their abuser, and they are sometime charged with perjury. In fact, victims of domestic violence should never be punished for not wanting to testify against their aggressors. Instead the prosecutor, the victims defense attorney, and the judge should come to an agreement where all the parties are somehow received a benefit. For example, if the victim decides to drop the case, she or he should be informed of the process that takes to drop it. In other words, the victims should be required to attempt to a meeting where a legal counselor and the defense attorney not only would explain the court process, but the victim would have to agree to sign a document regarding the no-drop policy. In other order words, there would be two options provided to the victims, where they would either agree to not drop the case under any circumstances or being aware that the only way to drop the case is by filing a case for dismissal of charges.

The victims who decide to drop their case should be informed that there is a process to it. They need to be aware that after filing a dismissal of charges, the judge will analyze the evidence and the reasons presented by the victim and under his discretion the case would either be dropped or upheld. If the judge considered dangerous for the victim and society to drop the case, then the prosecutor will become the affected party. Under those circumstances, the victim would eb obligated to provide his or her testimony in court. If the victim decided to leave the case or not present themselves in court, she will have to receive psychological therapy. Moreover, if the victim still does not show up to therapy or court, the victim would either pay a fine, do jail time up to 3 days, or do community service depending on the judge’s discretion. In cases where the judge agrees to dismiss the case, the abuser should still pay for their actions. The abuser should either pay a fine, a remedy to the victim, and under more serious circumstances do jail or prison time.

The no-drop policy might a great policy for making offenders pay for their abuse; however, in some cases, the victims are the most affected. Once the victims decide to report a crime, later they want to drop the case, they find themselves not responsible for controlling the case. Because domestic violence cases are often dropped by the victims, the no-drop policy gives prosecutors control over the case. In some cases, the victims’ testimony is presented as direct and/or circumstantial evidence, and the victim is not necessary to be present since the prosecutor has the power to provide medical reports, videotapes, photographs, and more evidence to prosecute the abuser. In some cases, the victims are charged for their victimization rather than receiving help and support. Therefore, the need for change regarding the no-drop policy is demanded.


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