Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse
Adjudicating This Hidden Dimension of Domestic Violence Cases
National Judicial Education Program
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Module VI: Institutional Responses

Key Points: Institutional Responses
  • All agencies and institutions to which victims turn for support need training on intimate partner sexual abuse.
  • Despite frequent co-occurrence of domestic violence and sexual assault, victim advocates, prosecutors, and other responders are typically not cross-trained to address both offenses, and are therefore unable to provide adequate support for victims of intimate partner sexual abuse.
  • Victims of co-occurring sexual and physical violence report being turned away from both domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers because of the complex nature of their experiences.
  • Victims often seek advice from their clergy. Some religious leaders have encouraged victims to “obey their husbands” and submit to gendered conventions. Such belief systems cannot serve as a legal justification for abuse.
  • Research documents the inadequate response of police to domestic violence and sexual assault, and the even greater deficiencies in the response to complaints of intimate partner sexual abuse.
  • Police, prosecutors and judges often make or let stand unwarranted dual arrests and then issue mutual orders of protection. Negative consequences can include the risk of deportation for immigrant victims and baseless challenges in custody proceedings.
  • Prosecutors need training in co-occurring domestic violence and sexual assault in order to appreciate the seriousness of these crimes and how to prosecute these cases.
  • While witnessing domestic violence and intimate partner sexual abuse can seriously affect a child's emotional and physical well being, having child protective services suddenly remove a child from a loving, nonabusive parent causes unnecessary harm.
  • Even courts that are sensitive to domestic violence and sexual assault may not apply that knowledge when the parties present issues of custody and visitation. A victim may sense that the court is placing her and her children in danger because of such rulings.
  • The court system's response to co-occurring domestic violence and sexual assault has been inadequate, with insufficient attention to potential lethality in these cases.

Module VI → Key Points: Institutional Responses
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