In recent decades, judicial innovations and judicial training about domestic violence has emphasized holding offenders accountable. Offenders pleading guilty or found guilty of domestic violence unquestionably should be held accountable in the course of administering equal justice under law. Accountability, however, is also a more general public issue. The public should be reasonably accountable for the broad aggregate of state actions under domestic violence emergency law and policies. Public information is crucial for ensuring public accountability for the operation of the criminal justice system.^
Basic facts about justice-system activity addressing domestic violence aren’t publicly well-understood. While domestic violence is treated as a specialized concern, arrests for domestic violence actually account for the majority of arrests for interpersonal violence. Aggregate statistics on calls to police concerning domestic violence present a much different picture of domestic violence that do prevalent, sensational accounts of a man murdering his wife. Gender-stereotyping of domestic violence is prevalent. The bitter scholarly dispute about domestic-violence against men is ignored in the presentation of domestic violence expertise to public officials. Nonetheless, even with gender-profiling men for arrest for domestic violence, police statistics indicate that about 25% of persons arrested for domestic violence are female. That fact is important for understanding the demographics of mass incarceration.
Domestic violence problem solving in the judicial system has not generally produced good aggregate information about judicial actions addressing domestic violence. Public reporting of an individual judge’s decision in a particular case is advantageous for attracting readers and generating public anger. Public information about the aggregate pattern of court activity, in contrast, could support reasoned public discussion of domestic violence policy. New, integrated domestic violence courts tend to obscure charges and actions concerning domestic violence within cases encompassing divorce, child custody, and child support. That lack of transparency tends to propagate the domestic-violence deliberative failure across other areas of intense personal concern.
Judicial statistics on restraining orders are important and could easily be improved greatly. Judges in the U.S. issue an estimated 1.7 million domestic-violence restraining orders per year. These restraining orders evict persons from their homes, cut off their communication with their children, and restrict their ordinary freedom of movement. Making publicly available aggregate statistics on the incidence, demographics, and reasons for restraining orders would increase public accountability in this important area of justice system activity. Registries of restraining orders intended to be comprehensive exist in most states. These registries are accessible nationally. Federal officials and state administrative divisions of courts, however, have not generally published aggregate statistics from these electronic databases. Domestic violence research is rife with anti-men gender bigotry and often is of poor intellectual quality. Lack of credible, aggregate public data limits public accountability for domestic violence policy.