Targeting Escalation in Reported Domestic Abuse: Evidence From 36,000 Callouts

Matthew Bland*, Barak Ariel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Practitioners dealing with domestic abuse often claim that the problem escalates over time in both seriousness and frequency. We tested those claims on 36,000 police records of domestic abuse between 2009 and 2014 reported to Suffolk Constabulary in the east of England. Using the Cambridge Crime Harm Index as the measure of harm severity, we found no escalation in the majority of cases; 76% of all unique victim and offender units (dyads) had zero repeat calls. Among the cohort of 727 dyads who called police 5 or more times, there was no evidence for statistically significant escalating harm severity, but some evidence of increasing frequency. Less than 2% of dyads accounted for 80% of all domestic abuse harm, but in over half of these highest harm dyads, there had been no prior contact with police regarding domestic abuse. These findings suggest the need for more engagement of nonpolice agencies in predicting serious harm.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)30-53
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Criminal Justice Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Georgia State University.


  • domestic violence
  • escalation
  • frequency
  • harm
  • intermittency
  • recidivism
  • severity
  • targeting
  • victim–offender dyads


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