Why rock the boat? Non-reporting of intimate partner violence
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This study critically examines the reasons for non-reporting of intimate partner violence (IPV). It explores the thesis that the use of restorative justice processes could impact on the rate of reporting and victims seeking early interventions for this form of offending (Morris, 2002; Morris & Gelsthorpe, 2000), or giving victims more choice, and therefore power (Curtis-Fawley & Daly, 2005). Empirical data from a range of participants including interviews with key informants such as judges, restorative justice practitioners, victim advocates, and men’s group facilitators, as well as victims and perpetrators of IPV identified a number of key factors responsible for non-reporting. Findings from this study support previous studies in New Zealand and internationally that a relatively small percentage of victims (36.1%) reported informally, to family and friends, and formally, to police, and as low as 5.6% reported intimate partner violence to police only (Fanslow & Robinson, 2010). However, reporting rises to as high as 77% in form of disclosure to “someone”. The factors for non-reporting include fear of the consequences, such as offender retaliation (Jordan, 2004; Ruiz-Perez, Mata-Pariente, & Plazaola-Castano, 2006), loss of children (Robertson et al, 2007), the role of law enforcement agencies such as the police (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000, cited in Jordan, 2004, p. 1415) and the judicial system (Jordan, 2004, p. 1413; Ruiz-Perez et al., 2006; Seuffert, 1996). This study also identified the complex nature of power dynamics in partner relationships as a critical factor in non-reporting of IPV. There are strong reservations in the literature about the use of restorative justice in IPV. For example, some of these concerns include: that it may tend to label IPV crime as conflict thus minimising its seriousness (Hooper and Busch, (1996, p. 10), concerns for the safety of victims, and the potential to reduce offender accountability (Busch and Robertson, (1993, p. 15). This study found significant support (79%) for the use of restorative justice enhancing the reporting of IPV, and no one opposed its use for IPV altogether. One of the key contributions of this study, therefore, is the re-conceptualisation of ‘reporting’ and the development of a reporting framework and how restorative justice could be applied at each of these forms to increase the rate of reporting of IPV.