Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Presented at the 7th Cornell Inter-University Graduate Student Conference, April 2011.


This essay makes a review of studies about the presence of biases against victims in the Judicial Decisionmaking of Domestic Violence (DV) crimes. The global recognition of the phenomenon has promoted a legal reform movement, in which the United States has been part. The first reform in the topic in the US was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1991. This federal statute detected biases not only in the judges, but also in other criminal prosecution actors -police departments and prosecutors. Then, it introduced research funds and legal tools to fight against biases, under the premise that DV is a gender based crime. Because of these facts, the author proposes that the effects of the Act must be evaluated by a double checking. In first, it is needed to see the changes on all of the criminal prosecution actors' attitudes and action toward DV violent crimes. In second, the analyzed studies show how the rates of the different stages of DV prosecution -arrest, prosecution decisions, and sentencing- have changed over the time. As a third and additional checking of the biases phenomenon, the author takes a foreign jurisdiction - Chile, a developing country- to compare how a legal reform whit a lower biases target works. The essay concludes with the confirmation of a reduction of biases in DV criminal prosecution in the United States, including some warnings about how authorities analyze too optimistically the rates, and with comments of the opportunity that Chile has to asses and solve the problem in a better manner.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Domestic Violence, Leniency in Domestic Violence, Arrest in Domestic Violence, Mandatory Arrest Policies, Double Arrest, Domestic Violence Prosecution, Evidence Based Prosecution, No-Drop Policies, Judicial Decision Making, Decision Making in Domestic Violence