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Guidelines for mandated documents: Law enforcement and intimate partner violence survivors

Lynn Westbrook (School of Information, University of Texas, Austin, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to present findings on the efficacy of documents that US police are required to provide to domestic violence survivors, specifically intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors. Triangulating data from survivors, shelter staff, and law enforcement officers across four stages of IPV experiences, this national study identifies priorities among essential information needs and proposes information guidelines for law enforcement.


A nationally distributed, 13-item, e-mail questionnaire was submitted to a stratified sample (ten largest, median, and smallest) of law enforcement agencies in all 50 states. Domestic violence shelters in each of the 1,500 cities were similarly recruited; survivors were recruited indirectly via shelter staff. The questions were clustered in terms of four common situations. Responses from 839 individuals were obtained, self-identified as police officers (481), shelter staff (263), and IPV survivors (95).


Documents should be formatted for safety (i.e. small), developed for specific situations, and written simply. They should also offer information about non-law enforcement services. All three of the populations queried agreed that the immediate needs of survivors are stronger than their long-term needs.

Research limitations/implications

The primary limitations are that the survey could include no means of determining the degree to which the respondents match the sample, and the response rate was insufficient to support inferential statistical analysis.


This national study, the first of its kind, explicates the nuances of information elements in the personally situated experiences of survivors, and it presents the first set of suggested law-enforcement document design guidelines.



The author is greatly appreciative of all the assistance in managing the survey provided by Jeanine Finn, Doctoral Candidate, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin.


Westbrook, L. (2015), "Guidelines for mandated documents: Law enforcement and intimate partner violence survivors", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 1, pp. 25-51.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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