Governmental Domestic Violence Policies: A Theoretical and Practical Analysis

33 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2007 Last revised: 5 Feb 2008

Date Written: December 6, 2007


Current domestic violence policies developed over past decades at the behest of women's advocacy groups and other interest groups. Through their efforts, perceived norms of behavior have been established and government power has been exerted to enforce those norms. Now, government policies and procedures regarding domestic violence are being questioned based on their impact on both alleged abusers and their alleged victims. Feminist law professors question domestic violence policies including mandatory arrest laws, mandatory no-contact orders, and no-drop prosecution (against the victims' wishes) policies. These policies many times ignore alleged victims' rights and wishes and decrease alleged abusers' perceptions of procedural justice related to domestic violence cases. Consequently, current policies may make victims less, rather than more safe.

Under current policies, people can easily file questionable domestic violence claims for almost any reason, including circumventing normal court procedures for family divorce and custody decisions. This study uses data from West Virginia as an example. Over time, investigations and arrests for domestic violence increased dramatically overall while investigations related to aggravated assault and homicide declined. Less than twenty percent of domestic violence petitions filed in West Virginia lead to the issuance of a protective order. Estimated identifiable governmental costs associated with denied or dismissed domestic violence petitions exceed $18 million annually in West Virginia. Any benefits of increasingly proactive domestic violence policies must be compared to their costs. A new social norm that creates a high cost for false domestic violence claims is needed.

Keywords: ideological rent seeking, norms, domestic violence, costs, false claims

JEL Classification: D72, D73, D78, H10, K19, K40

Suggested Citation

Foster, Benjamin P., Governmental Domestic Violence Policies: A Theoretical and Practical Analysis (December 6, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Benjamin P. Foster (Contact Author)

University of Louisville ( email )

School of Accountancy, College of Business
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
5028524826 (Phone)
502-852-6070 (Fax)

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