Perceiving and Reporting Domestic Violence Incidents in Unconventional Settings: A Vignette Survey Study
48 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2009 Last revised: 29 Oct 2012
Date Written: June 19, 2009
For decades researchers have grappled with issues of underreporting abuse to the police in formulating domestic violence scholarship and policy. Traditionally, domestic violence has been viewed through a lens of patriarchy and gender oppression. However, some literature suggests that in unconventional abusive relationships, such as in same-sex relationships or in relationships where a female batterer perpetrates abuse on a male victim, the problem of underreporting abuse is even more severe. In these relationships, underreporting may stem from less frequent identification of violence as abuse. Additionally, an increased reluctance to report abuse may result from concerns regarding the appropriateness of a police response to these non-stereotypical situations.
The current project uses a vignette survey design to examine the tendencies to report such incidents to the police, by controlling for the type of relationship, the existence of outing threats, and the presence of mutual violence. Compared to the typical scenario involving a male batterer and female victim, we find significantly more unwillingness to contact the police in situations where women abuse men and in same-sex abuse scenarios. Violence in these alternative relationships is more often seen as mutual relationship problems that should be resolved through counseling and reconciliation. Also, we find that mutual violence leads to a decline in reporting only in the normative male abuser and female victim scenario. Conversely, in non-traditional relationships, where power differentials do not track expected gender roles, the victim is less likely to be penalized for engaging in violence. Further, non-heterosexual respondents are less likely to report same-sex violent incidents. Finally, education (legal education in particular), as well as residing in a more progressive state regarding same-sex issues, yield lesser rates of police reporting.
Keywords: police, domestic violence, same-sex relationships, underreporting
JEL Classification: k12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation