Why do domestic violence victims recant?

The main thing that sets domestic violence cases apart from other types of assault in Baltimore, Maryland, is that the two parties — both the alleged assaulter and the accuser — are from the same household. They may be dating, married or related through paternity.

In these cases, alleged victims will sometimes start out by contacting the authorities, but then they will seemingly change their minds. They will withdraw their claims or they might start telling a different story than the one that they originally told police. They may even begin being uncooperative. This is called recanting. Why do people decide to do it?

There are many reasons, but they mostly go back to the complications created by the two parties being related. In some cases, a victim may just be doing what they can to make sure that the charges are dropped so that the other party does not get punished. After all, they care about that person; they are emotionally invested. What they may have said in the heat of the moment may not reflect the way that they feel a few days, weeks or months later.

So, if an accuser decides to recant, does this mean that the case has to be dropped? In some cases, it may, but not in all. If the prosecution has enough evidence without the accuser, they may still move toward a trial, attempting to get a conviction even if they do not have the testimony. They still have the legal ability to do this.

People who have been accused of violence by others who have then decided to withdraw their stories must understand what legal impact this can have on the cases so that they know what they need to do — and whether or not the charges will still stand — as things move forward.

Source: FindLaw, “The Recanting Victim and Domestic Violence” Oct. 15, 2014