Abusers play on victim's emotions to drop charges

A new study reveals how men facing charges of felony domestic violence often persuade their victims to withdraw the accusations of abuse.

For the study Ohio State University researchers listened to recorded jailhouse phone conversations between 17 accused male abusers in a Washington state detention facility and their female victims who decided not to follow through on the charges against the men. The detention facility routinely records detainees' phone conversations and all the couples in the study knew they were being recorded.

The study authors, who examined between 30 and 192 minutes of phone conversations between each of the couples, said their findings may change how legal officials work with domestic violence victims to prosecute alleged abusers.

"The existing belief is that victims recant because the perpetrator threatens her with more violence. But our results suggest something very different," lead author Amy Bonomi, an associate professor of human development and family science, said.

"Perpetrators are not threatening the victim, but are using more sophisticated emotional appeals designed to minimise their actions and gain the sympathy of the victim. That should change how we work with victims," she said.

Bonomi and her colleagues identified a five-step process that begins with victims determined to proceed with charges and ending with them agreeing to recant their testimony against the accused abuser.

"The tipping point for most victims occurs when the perpetrator appeals to her sympathy, by describing how much he is suffering in jail, how depressed he is, and how much he misses her and their children," Bonomi said. "The perpetrator casts himself as the victim, and quite often the real victim responds by trying to soothe and comfort the abuser."

The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more about domestic violence.

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

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