Amy Bonomi



Interpersonal Process Associated with Victim Recantation


Amy Bonomi (Human Development and Family Science & CJRC)


Criminal Justice Research Center and the Group Health Foundation


Our study used live telephone conversations between domestic violence perpetrators and victims to answer novel questions about how and why victims arrive at their decision to recant and/or refuse prosecution efforts. From October 2008 to June 2011, we conducted a qualitative study involving 25 heterosexual couples, where the male perpetrator was being held in a U.S. Detention Facility for felony-level domestic violence and made telephone calls to his female victim during the pre-prosecution period. We used 30 to 192 minutes of conversational data for each couple to examine: 1) interpersonal processes associated with the victim's intention to recant; and 2) the couple's construction of the recantation plan once the victim intended to recant. We used constructivist grounded theory to guide data analysis, which allowed for the construction of a novel recantation framework, while acknowledging the underlying coercive interpersonal dynamic. Our results showed that consistently across couples, a victim's recantation intention was foremost influenced by the perpetrator's appeals to the victim's sympathy through descriptions of his suffering from mental and physical problems, intolerable jail conditions, and life without her. The intention was solidified by the perpetrator's minimization of the abuse, and the couple invoking images of life without each other. Once the victim arrived at her decision to recant, the couple constructed the recantation plan by redefining the abuse event to protect the perpetrator, blaming the State for the couple's separation, and exchanging specific instructions on what should be said or done. Our findings advance scientific knowledge through identifying, in the context of ongoing interactions, strategies perpetrators used—sympathy appeals and minimization—to successfully persuade their victim and strategies the couple used to preserve their relationship. Practitioners must double their efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, and efforts made to link victims to trusted advocates who can help them defend against perpetrators' sophisticated techniques.



Bonomi AE, Martin D, Gangamma R, Grabmeier J. "New Insights on the Process of Victim Recantation." Domestic Violence Report. 2013 (March). 

Bonomi AE, Gangamma R, Locke C, Katafiasz H, Martin D. "Meet me at the hill where we used to park:" Processes associated with victim recantation. Social Science and Medicine. 2011. 73:1054-1061.

Bonomi AE, Carotta C, Schiavone S, Sweeney J, Blatnik S. "I'm Hoping for a Miracle,' & 'I am too': Hopes Expressed Between Victims and Offenders Following Incarceration for Partner Violence." Under review at Journal of Family Psychology.

Gangamma R, Bonomi AE, Katafiasz H, Bartle-Haring S. "Systemic processes in restoring intimacy in the aftermath of a violent event." Under review.

Nemeth J, Bonomi AE, Lee M, Ludwin J. "Sexual infidelity as the trigger for intimate partner violence and injury." Under review

Lee M, Bonomi AE, Nemeth J, Ludwin J, Carotta C. "Minimization of abuse in severely abusive couples." In progress.

Press Coverage and Links:

The Chicago Tribune - Dating dangers: Young love's dark side

W-OSU (All Sides with Ann Fisher)

WBNS-TV in Columbus

WKMG In Orlando