Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)


Vincent Giordano


domestic violence, law enforcement, victims, advocacy




Domestic violence incidents impact the daily activities of the law enforcement agencies responsible for responding to these calls for service. Legislators and law enforcement leaders have expended countless hours, staffing, and finances to adequately protect the victims of domestic violence. In Virginia, an essential component of protecting victims of domestic violence involves the referral process, used by law enforcement officers to connect victims of domestic violence to domestic violence advocacy groups. The Code of Virginia and law enforcement agencies receiving accreditation through the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC) require these referrals. There is available research regarding the referral process at metropolitan law enforcement agencies across the United States. However, there is a gap regarding how Virginia law enforcement officers employed with VLEPSC-accredited agencies serving populations less than 50,000 describe their experiences and the navigation of the referral process. This qualitative study utilized semi-structured interviews to assess the perspectives of 15 law enforcement officers who served in a full-time capacity and were responsible for investigating domestic violence incidents reported to the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, King George County Sheriff’s Office, Winchester Police Department, and the Woodstock Police Department. This study found the following: (a) rural law enforcement officers struggle with the strict level of confidentiality advocacy services, (b) it is imperative for law enforcement officers to take an active role in their education regarding the domestic violence process, and (c) rural law enforcement officers need extended training regarding domestic violence.

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