Domestic violence is a serious problem in the contemporary American society (Buzawa). Most of the violence against women is committed by intimate relations of the victims and criminal documentation of the same is not available. Thus a study on the effectiveness of the present prevention and regulatory system is essential. The article by Carlson, Harris, and Holden studies the court and police records to understand the effectiveness of the Protection Order (PO) on the incidence of re-abuse of the victims. The study was conducted from court data on PO and police records for 2 years before and after the incidence of the PO order (Carlson, Harris and Holden). This paper reviews the article and tries to ascertain the applicability, generalizability, and the definitiveness of the conclusions.
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The article provides a vivid introduction with discussion in the current status of the legal status of prevention of family violence. Protection against family violence against women was not present in many states prior to the seventies. It was only in 1994 that all the American states adopted POs (Carlson, Harris and Holden). The authors then present a theoretical validation of PO. They show that POs were better adapted to handling situations of family violence than other legal statutes: “In theory, the PO addresses many of the limitations of traditional approaches to legal intervention in domestic violence cases.” (Carlson, Harris and Holden 206). The authors cite other studies where POs have been appraised for their effectiveness due to their citizens rather than criminal nature. The authors feel that the gap in the PO researches is that no studies prior to their research had attempted to understand the effectiveness of PO even though they were widely used.
The researchers did a literature review on the studies conducted earlier on the effectiveness of PO. They found five relevant researchers conducted. The literature they studied showed similar results even though they found that their approaches were different. The differences in the literature were in the duration of the follow up period after the PO filing which ranged from 4 months to 2 years, and in the method of data collection wherein a few researches collected data through interviews while others through police records. The previous researches showed that studies, which used follow-up of 6 months to 2 years, showed that 40 to 50 percent of women who file PO reported no further abuse case. Further, the researchers, which used interview methodology found no re-abuse cases for 60 to 76 percent cases. The authors’ finds a gap in these studies, as they do not reveal if the reduction in domestic violence was due to legal intervention or it would have occurred eventually.
The second gap that the authors identify is the unclear understanding of risk factors for re-abuse in the literature reviewed. From the previous studies, the authors identified three risk factors: (a) victim sharing biological children with abuser, (b) arrest of the abuser, and (c) history of prior domestic violence.
Purpose of the research
The aim of the research has been clearly stated by the authors and they can be stated as follows: (1) find out the effectiveness of PO, (b) the method used to measure effectiveness is through assessing the risk factors of re-abuse, (c) for the purpose they used 2-year follow-up period. The main aim as stated is “to examine the impact of socioeconomic status (SES) on re-abuse, which has been ignored in prior research.” (Carlson, Harris and Holden 207)
The authors used three risk factors, socioeconomic status, nature of intervention, and family characteristics. Then the authors provide reasons why these three risk factors are chosen. The authors give three reasons for choosing socioeconomic status (SES). First, women stay with abusive partners due to financial reasons. Second, financial condition of the abusive partner is correlated to his abusive nature at home. Studies have shown that men with lower income show more abusive traits than those with higher income. Third, low income male are less affected by legal sanctions. From this the authors draw the first hypothesis i.e. women with higher SES is less likely to report re-abuse compared to their lower SES counterpart. Then they dealt into the issue of the nature of intervention. The researchers admit that the literature on this issue is divided in their views but from their study, they hypothesize that women who file permanent PO are less likely to report re-abuse than those who file temporary PO. The third risk factor assessed is family characteristics. Here they hypothesize that length of relationship; relationship investment and the presence of biological children are negatively related to chances of re-abuse.
Data Collection and Methodology
For the purpose of the research, the data has been collected from court records and police records. They collected samples related to protective orders for three months in the three years period. They collected 348 initial samples of which 33 were excluded due to various reasons. In the 313 sample cases, PO filed in court and out of them 210 couples also had police records before PO, thus making the final sample to be 210.
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The measures that were taken for the study were demographic variables, family variables, intervention variables, and re-abuse. The analysis was done by taking ht dependent variable as a binary variable; they used multivariate logistic regression for the determination of the probability of re-abuse of the victim. They first compared the rates of physical abuse reported before PO and after filing PO. Then they assessed relative risk of re-abuse for various groups of women. Third, in order to understand the race and class differences in re-abuse they do conditional probability for selected groups of women.
The study is applicable for other researches as this method is comprehensive and data collection is not a problem. Further, the method of analysis is explicit and does not take too many assumptions, which constricts the applicability of the research methodology and findings for other researches. The findings of the study as presented showed similar results to earlier findings increasing the validity of the research results they found that very low SES women are more likely to report violence than low or medium SES group people. The study also showed that temporary PO is less effective than permanent PO. Then their findings showed that the longer the length of relationship the less are the incidents of re-abuse after PO. Further, the presence of a biological child increased the incidence of re-abuse as compared to couples with no children. Further, the incidence of physical abuse and re-abuse is more among Blacks than among Whites or Hispanics. The applicability of the research is in the area of social work and policy making wherein the research shows that the PO is an effective tool than criminal record of abuse as this has evidently decreased the incidence of re-abuse after the PO is filed. Further, the case of incidence of abuse has been decreased using PO.
The research has used three different data analysis methods in order to understand the probability of incidence, the likelihood, and the risk factors in re-abuse of PO. However, as the research has been done on the records of Travis County (Texas) courthouse, and police reports from the files of the Austin Police Department (APD), the generalizability of the research is not possible or extendable for the nature of the demographics and cases may differ in other parts of the country. Therefore, for this reason, the research has to be extended to other areas and similar study has to be conducted in order to make the research more generalizable. However, in case of the probability of incidence, the research can be generalized, but in case of the social and economic status, the study cannot be generalized.
Are the conclusions warranted?
The conclusion of the paper is validated through similarities in finding of previous research in the area. The conclusion of the paper is this that the PO order is effective but not a full proof method of stopping re-abuse of women, especially in lower income strata and Blacks. However, the research points out these facts, but due to lack of generalizability, this finding cannot be warranted and fully validated. Further due to the complex nature of determination of domestic violence is complex in nature and thus, court orders vary in this regard, thus not providing complete immunity to all. Thus, the paper suggests that demographic and socioeconomic status need to be considered while giving court ruling. However, this point can only be stressed if the research is extended to other areas and a complete validation of the research is achieved through a countrywide research.
Buzawa, Carl G. Do arrests and restraining orders work? Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, 1996.
Carlson, Matthew J., Susan D. Harris and George W. Holden. “Protective Orders and Domestic Violence: Risk Factors for Re-Abuse.” Journal of Family Violence Vol. 14, No. 2 (1999): 205-226.