Examining reasons for victim retraction in domestic violence and abuse: A qualitative analysis of police retraction statements in the United Kingdom

Hopkins, Anna (2023). Examining reasons for victim retraction in domestic violence and abuse: A qualitative analysis of police retraction statements in the United Kingdom. The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0032258x231159807

Abstract

Understanding the factors that influence domestic violence and abuse (DVA) victims to withdraw from the Criminal Justice System globally continues to be a key focus for professionals and academics working within this area. There is a dearth of extant literature examining the motivations behind victim withdrawal, particularly retraction occurring post provision of an initial statement. This paper examines the phenomenon of retraction, by thematically analysing N = 60 police retraction statements (PRS) collected by police officers in a large suburban police force in the North West of England. In examining these statements, insight can also be garnered from those victims still in an active relationship with their abusers. Findings highlight female victims’ motivations for retraction and are framed around victim problem solving including: a) accepting the relationship which resulted in a discordance in proceeding with the prosecution of the abuser b) rejecting the relationship thereby rendering the prosecution as redundant c) engaging in procedural problem solving where alternative measures such as civil actions were sought to substitute a CJS prosecution and d) the effect of children where motivations were split between retracting to return to the complete family unit including the victim as the mother and retracting due to recognising the importance of the father’s role without involvement from the mother. Notwithstanding limitations, this paper demonstrates that there is significant value in conducting an analysis of PRSs in furthering the understanding of why victims choose to retract at this point in their prosecution journey. The extracts from this dataset add insight and understanding into DVA female victim motivations to retract post-initial statement provision and highlight the differences within victim populations who retract their original statement.

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