Only the Faces and Names Change – Witness Intimidation in Intimate Partner Violence Cases

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 19, 2022

Heidi Bonner
Heidi Bonner, PhD
Associate Professor & Chair
East Carolina University
John Guard
John Guard
Chief Deputy
Pitt County Sheriff’s Office

Witness intimidation in intimate partner violence cases is a significant problem because offenders use complex interpersonal processes to keep violent relationships intact. Research suggests that as many as 80 percent of cases that reach the court system involve victims that recant or refuse to testify because savvy offenders know how to influence victims. In this environment, what can communities do to improve case outcomes, hold offenders accountable, and ensure victim safety?

The Pitt County, North Carolina, model of responding to witness intimidation in intimate partner violence cases was developed in response to legal constraints on standard prosecutorial efforts, and has evolved in response to changing case law, site-specific research, and changing circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This case study of efforts led by the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, to increase victim safety and hold offenders accountable in cases of witness intimidation, will provide multiple investigative strategies for agencies to adopt in their own jurisdictions so they can do the same.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Recognize how prevalent witness intimidation is during the post-arrest phase of the court process. 
  • Describe investigative techniques and strategies and discuss how witness intimidation continues to evolve to circumvent successful prosecution.
  • Identify the ever-evolving strategies offenders in intimate partner violence cases use to facilitate the victim’s absence at trial.
  • Identify evidence that can be collected in an effective post-arrest investigation, thus enhancing offender accountability.
  • Demonstrate how new research, evaluation, and data collection continue to fuel advances in practice.

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