Domestic Violence and Recidivism Reduction Project

Domestic Violence is a Wide-Spread & Intolerable Problem in American Society

Domestic violence – violence or physical abuse directed by a person toward his or her spouse, partner or other family member – affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and educational levels. Domestic violence is much more wide-spread than many realize, and takes a significant toll on our society.

The statistics are shocking
According to a 2009 publication of the National Institute of Justice, Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research, and other recent research, domestic violence results in:

  • Assaults: 1 in 4 women will be physically assaulted by a partner during her lifetime.
  • Homicides: 41% of all female homicide victims between 1976 and 2008 were killed by an intimate partner or family member.
  • Elder abuse: 90% of elder abuse is committed by family members.
  • Child abuse: 60 to 75% of families with intimate partner violence have children who are also battered.
  • Lasting impact on children: Children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are significantly more likely than the general population to become abusers, be abused, and/or experience serious psychological and behavioral problems. Sadly, 5.5 million U.S. children live in a family in which domestic violence occurred at least once in the past year.

The costs are incalculable
From a strictly monetary standpoint, the costs of domestic violence include the costs of medical care, lost wages and productivity, law enforcement, incarceration, probation, treatment programs, plus the costs incurred by schools that must deal with children’s related psychological and behavioral problems.

From a “human” standpoint, victims of domestic violence suffer lasting and often permanent physical and psychological damage.

For example, a child’s exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to another, thus compounding the trauma and resulting costs. Also, battered women are 15 times more likely to be at risk for alcoholism than non-battered women, and 9 times more likely to be at risk for drug abuse, thus complicating an already expensive societal problem.

 Recidivism rates are extremely high

Currently there are few treatment methods that have been shown to significantly reduce the recurrence of domestic violence. Typically, the rate of re-offense by perpetrators of domestic violence is 30 to 40%, irrespective of the type of intervention used, including incarceration, counseling, and long-term anger management programs.

The widely utilized and highly touted programs known as Batterers’ Intervention Programs (BIPs) initiated in many states since the early 1990’s as a condition of probation have proven to be no exception to the generally pessimistic prognosis for behavior change. In BIPs, offenders convicted of a domestic violence offense are required to attend a weekly group BIP for a minimum of 52 weeks. Effectiveness of these programs has been questionable, at best.

  • One major study (Babcock, et al (2004) showed that offenders had a recidivism rate of at least 60% with or without BIP treatment.
  • A National Institute of Justice review of the effectiveness of California’s BIPs (MacLeod et al, 2009) showed no statistical association at all between the BIP program participation and a batterer’s likelihood of re-offending.

Causal Factors of Violent Behavior

For those that are working toward reducing the incidence of domestic violence, the big question is: what are the causes of violent behavior? Research shows that a multitude of factors play a part in determining whether or not an individual will be prone to expressing inappropriate aggression, such as domestic violence. Of the myriad genetic and environmental influences, we find an important consideration is adequate nutrition.

Impact of serotonin on behavior
A number of studies conducted over the past two decades, including several sponsored by the Violence Research Foundation, have focused on the influence of nutrition in the control of aggression. Most studies show that people with histories of inappropriate aggression appear to have abnormally low levels of serotonin (5-HT), a neurotransmitter. Inadequate levels of serotonin in certain parts of the brain are associated with inappropriate aggressive behavior.

Impact of nutrition on serotonin
While in some cases the root cause of chronically low 5-HT levels can be purely genetic, in other cases inadequate serotonin levels can be caused by inadequate nutrition. In that regard, several recent studies have shown that a significant reduction in inappropriate aggression can be achieved with the use of nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, when taken in standard recommended daily amounts.

As part of the organization’s goals of making society a safer, more peaceful place by identifying and addressing the root causes of violent behavior, the Violence Research Foundation is sponsoring the Domestic Violence and Recidivism Reduction Project.

Program goal
The goal of our project is to demonstrate that a low-cost nutritional supplement consisting of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can reduce the recurrence of domestic violence. We intend to demonstrate the benefit of nutritional supplementation in domestic violence offenders because this group is known to have high rates of recidivism. Typically, the rate of re-offense by perpetrators will be 30 to 40%, irrespective of the type of intervention used, including incarceration, counseling and long-term anger management programs. We hold no illusions that nutritional supplementation will eliminate recidivism, but we believe that we can affect a significant reduction in the number of re-offenses by providing nutritional supplementation.

Program design
The Violence Research Foundation Domestic Violence Reduction Project seeks to be an enhancement or adjunct to the current BIP programs. Our goal is to supplement existing group therapy programs by introducing a weekly supply of multivitamins, minerals and fatty acids into the probationer’s regular diet. Further, we expect the outcomes of the BIP programs to noticeably improve as a result of one half of the participants receiving nutritional supplements.

Working with the Orange County (California) Probation Department and others, the Violence Research Foundation will oversee all activities of the proposed project. Specifically, we will do the following:

  • Gather Pre-Study Data – For purposes of screening, we will gather socio-demographic, psycho-educational, medical and nutritional information from a cohort of up to 1,000 probationers, identified by the Probation Department, all of whom will have been convicted of a crime of domestic violence and be participating in state-mandated BIP programs as a condition of probation.
  • Obtain Consent – Obtain legal informed consent from at least 600 of those probationers, after screening them for disqualifying conditions.
  • Assign Subjects to Groups – Randomly assign subjects to either an active nutritional supplement group (n=300) or a placebo group (n=300) for a period of one year, commencing with the initiation of their first session of the 52-week state-mandated program, and continuing through its completion.
  • Obtain Recidivism Data – Gather information pertaining to all incidents of violent behavior, from periodic interviews with spouses/domestic partners, reviews of police records, and reviews of treatment program outcomes.
  • Publish Report – Upon completion of the proposed project, the Violence Research Foundation will publish a comprehensive report on the costs and benefits of nutritional supplementation as an adjunct to conventional group counseling approaches to reducing domestic violence. 
  • Propose Changes in Public Policy – If the results of the study indicate that the outcomes of the BIP programs can be noticeably improved through the addition of nutritional supplementation, the Violence Research Foundation will propose appropriate changes in public policy be made accordingly. The ultimate goal of the Violence Research Foundation is to generate increased awareness among public officials, law enforcement and the general public of the role nutrition plays in individual behavior, and as a consequence, how inexpensive vitamin and mineral supplementation can help reduce violence.

Program team
The Violence Research Foundation is very fortunate to have the support and participation of the following partners for this Orange County, California-based project:

  • The University of California, Irvine The Principal Investigator on the Domestic Violence and Recidivism Reduction Project will be Francis M. Crinella, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California, Irvine’s Child Development Center.
  • Orange County Probation Department (OCPD) Known and respected as one of the most innovative probation departments in the state, OCPD has participated with the Violence Research Foundation in conceptualizing the Domestic Violence and Recidivism Reduction Project. In addition to providing access to potential study participants, OCPD will provide statistical and background data, both pre- and post-participation, to allow a comprehensive, objective evaluation of the outcomes.
  • Coalition Against Domestic Violence of Orange County (CADVOC) An Orange County-wide association of mental health professionals who conduct weekly group counseling sessions for probationers as mandated by California law.
  • Hero Nutritionals, Inc. A San Clemente, California-based company that will provide very high-grade vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids at their cost as a benefit to the project.


 We invite you to browse the wealth of information available in the reports, studies, articles and PowerPoint presentations in our Library. Many of these were sponsored by VRF; others were prepared by close associates of VRF, while others deserve to be included in this important conversation. All of them are included with the hope that they each contribute to the effective reduction of Domestic Violence.