Americans: Always prosecute domestic abusers

February 24, 2015, 2:44 PM GMT+0

Most Americans think that perpetrators of domestic violence should always be arrested and prosecuted regardless of what the victim wants

Every year just under five million American women will suffer violence at the hands of a partner, and 27% of women and 12% of men report suffering from severe short-term consequences, or longer term ones such as PTSD, as a result of being victims of domestic violence. How the legal authorities and broader society treats domestic violence has been transformed, however, in recent decades. 'Wife beating' has been illegal in every state since 1920, but until the early 1980s the police rarely arrested perpetrators. Now, however, around half of the states in the country have laws which make it mandatory or strongly encouraged for the police to arrest people accused of domestic abuse even if the officer did not witness the crime, while district attorneys in most jurisdictions will prosecute abusers regardless of whether or not the victim wants the prosecution to move forwards.

Research conducted by YouGov shows that most Americans (52%) think that the police and prosecutors should always go after perpetrators of domestic violence, even if the victim of the violence doesn't want the prosecution to occur. 29% of Americans think that victims should be able to decide whether or not to prosecute. Women (58%) are more likely than men (46%) to say that prosecution should move forwards regardless.

The 25% of Americans, including 18% of men and 32% of women, who have themselves been a victim of domestic violence (59%) are roughly as likely as people who have not been attacked by a partner (52%) to say that perpetrators should be prosecuted regardless of the wishes of victim like themselves.

Asked whether the police treat domestic violence seriously enough, 57% of Americans say that it is treated seriously enough by the police while 43% say that the police tend to treat it as just a family matter.

Americans overwhelmingly say that domestic violence is an issue best handled by the police and the courts, not just by the people involved. 73% say that the police and courts are best placed to handle it, while 27% say it's best to leave it to the people involved. Americans under the age of 30 (33%) and black Americans (38%) are the most likely to say that it's best handled just by the people involved.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

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