Arrest Outcomes for Interpartner Violence: The Myth of Parity

45 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2007 Last revised: 13 Dec 2015

See all articles by Melissa Hamilton

Melissa Hamilton

University of Surrey School of Law

Meredith Worthen

University of Oklahoma

Date Written: June 1, 2010


Recent legal reform has changed the ways that police respond to domestic disputes. Studies show that such shifts in legislation have usually resulted in an increased likelihood of arrest for both parties involved. However, most research to date has focused on incidents of male perpetrators assaulting female intimate partners. Few studies have investigated potential differences in police officers’ decisions to arrest when considering both the gender (male versus female) of the suspect and the sexual orientation (heterosexual versus homosexual) of the couples involved. This study utilizes data from a quantitative dataset where police officers completed a mandated checklist after responding to a domestic dispute. We explore the ways that both gender and sexual orientation affect police decision to arrest in intimate partner violence. Results demonstrate that a variety of factors, including the suspect’s prior assaultive behavior, suspect’s hostile attitude, suspect’s race, and presence of an injury are important in the arrest outcome among all groups. However, there are some significant differences in arrest when considering the intersections of gender and sexuality. Findings suggest that future policy and research should continue to consider the impacts of gender and sexuality on official responses to intimate partner violence.

Keywords: police decisionmaking, domestic violence, gender and sexuality, sociological model of law

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Melissa and Worthen, Meredith, Arrest Outcomes for Interpartner Violence: The Myth of Parity (June 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Melissa Hamilton (Contact Author)

University of Surrey School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

Meredith Worthen

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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