Objective: To evaluate the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of domestic assault.
Design and setting: Consecutive-sample survey study conducted at the scenes of police calls for domestic assault in Memphis, Tenn, in 1995.
Participants: A total of 136 participants (72 victims and 64 assailants) involved in 62 incidents of domestic violence and 75 adult family members at the scene.
Main outcome measures: Participants' responses to a confidential survey and review of police records.
Results: Of 62 episodes of domestic assault, 42 (68%) involved weapons and 11 (15%) resulted in serious injury. Fifty-five (89%) of 62 assault victims reported previous assaults by their current assailants, 19 (35%) of them on a daily basis. Although nearly all assault victims had called the police for help on previous occasions, only 12 (22%) reported having ever sought medical care, counseling, or shelter because of domestic assault. Sixty (92%) of the 64 assailants reportedly used alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault. Of the assailants, 28 (44%) had a history of arrest for charges related to violence, and 46 (72%) had an arrest for substance abuse. Eleven (15%) of the victims were children. Children directly witnessed 53 (85%) of the assaults.
Conclusions: Most victims of domestic violence who had called the police rarely used medical or mental health facilities for problems related to family violence despite frequent assaults. Victims and assailants were willing to discuss their histories of family violence and undergo assessments at the scenes of police calls.