Faculty Articles

Captive-taking in the context of domestic violence: A descriptive analysis

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Victims and Offenders



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Captive-taking events in the context of domestic violence have received increased attention from law enforcement and mental health professionals. However, despite the high lethality risk of these situations, for both the partners involved as well as first responders (police officers, crisis negotiators), only a modicum of investigative activity has been directed to these incidents. Further, the few extant reports in this area are primarily clinical case studies or anecdotal accounts. The purpose of the present investigation was to expand on previous work by providing more descriptive analyses of these events in order to garner data potentially useful in crisis negotiators’ efforts to resolve these critical incidents in a peaceful, nonviolent manner. Specifically, three categories of variables (demographic, situational, and outcome) were examined in cases obtained from the Hostage/Barricade Database System (HOBAS) maintained by the Crisis Negotiation Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Results showed that (1) these incidents tend to be unplanned, (2) they occur in private residences, (3) third party intermediaries are judged to have minimal impact on the negotiated outcome, and (4) subjects tend to be white in their mid-30s or 40s with prior violent arrest and substance abuse histories. Further, white females are more likely to be victims. Extended family members and children are increasingly becoming involved in these situations. Additionally, five cases were chosen to reflect the primary categories of variables. Limitations of the study and implications for future research in this area are also discussed.

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