Project ReVEAL: Recording victims video statements as evidence to advance outcomes in family violence cases  (2018)

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Family violence affects many individuals in Texas and the complex, ongoing nature of abuse presents several barriers to criminal justice intervention. Studies show that 38 percent of adult women in Texas report having experienced some form of family violence and 146 women died in 2016 at the hands of their abusers. With prevalence rates such as this, Texas launched an innovative statewide pilot program to use video-recording equipment as an investigative tool in family violence investigation.

Project ReVEAL examines the applicability, efficacy, and cost effectiveness of using video recorded victim statements, as well as supplementary evidence, to investigate family violence cases. These video recordings have been used as an intervention strategy in El Paso and Comal counties and have rendered effective in several areas. Project ReVEAL will seek to further the evidence of this intervention through partnering with communities across Texas as they begin to implement video recording programs. The evaluation will work with multidisciplinary partners, involving members of law enforcement, prosecution, victim advocacy, and victims of family violence to inform best practices.

Since family violence victims often drop their participation in the criminal justice system, it is difficult for a state to proceed in making the necessary case for prosecution and the offender is not held accountable. Videotapes of the victim’s initial statements are a powerful tool that can be used to continue the prosecution. Early findings from Project ReVEAL highlight the potential promise. Members of law enforcement find the videos effective in communicating their experience on-scene to prosecutors reviewing the case. Prosecutors report an increased understanding of the severity of the crime and an improved ability to negotiate with defense attorneys. This ongoing evaluation continues to examine whether videos in family violence cases: (1) improve law enforcement investigative capacity in family violence cases, (2) improve prosecutorial case readiness for family violence cases, (3) increase the accountability of family violence offenders, (4) enhance victim safety, and (5) significantly reduce the costs of adjudicating family violence cases.

The project will contribute to the literature by strengthening the evidence on using family violence victim initial statement video recordings. The project also will potentially improve safety within families and hold family violence offenders accountable. Results will contribute to the creation of a model for other Texas jurisdictions. All of these efforts will ultimately strive to spread awareness and reduce family violence in Texas.