V. Victims of Domestic Violence
is a crime, not a family matter, and should be approached as such by law
enforcement. U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that approximately
20 percent of homicides are committed within families or within intimate
relationships, and one out of three female homicide victims is killed
by an intimate. Furthermore, approximately 28 percent of violent crimes
against females are committed by husbands or boyfriends. Finally, approximately
50 percent of domestic violence occurs between married partners and 25
percent between nonmarried partners living together, both involving mainly
male assailants and female victims.
The three primary responsibilities
of law enforcement in domestic violence cases are to (1) provide physical
safety and security for victims, (2) assist victims by coordinating their
referral to support services, and (3) make arrests of domestic violence
perpetrators as required by law.
Unlike most other
victims of crime, victims of domestic violence do not usually suffer a
sudden and unpredictable threat to their safety or lives.
More often, domestic violence involves years of personal stress and trauma,
as well as physical injury. Thus, in domestic violence casesunlike
in other crimesyour ability to help victims cope with and recover
from their victimization may be limited.
Tips for Responding to Victims of Domestic Violence
Because domestic violence cases present potential dangers,
responding officers should arrive in pairs at the scene if possible.
Introduce yourself and explain that you were called because of a possible
injury. Ask permission to enter the residence to make sure everything
Separate the parties involved in domestic violence before
interviewing them, even if they are not violent or arguing when you
Ask victims whether they would like you to contact a
family member or friend.
Avoid judging victims or personally commenting on the
situation. Abusive relationships continue for many reasons. Offering
advice to the victim at the scene will not solve this complex problem.
Even if no children are present at the scene, ask whether
there are children in the family, and, if so, find out their whereabouts.
Keep in mind that children sometimes hide or are hidden in these circumstances.
Approach children with care and kindness. Look for signs
of emotional trauma or distress. Be attentive to physical indications
of child abuse since domestic violence is sometimes linked with child
Even when no domestic violence charges can be filed,
encourage the parties to separate for a short periodat least
overnight. If victims' safety at home can be assured, consider asking
assailants to leave. Although law enforcement officers have traditionally
asked victims to leave the home, this serves to disrupt their lives
even further, especially when children are involved.
Assure victims that the purpose of your intervention
is to help address the problem, not to make the situation worse.
Provide victims referral information on domestic violence
shelters and battered women's programs. This should be done away from
Remember that domestic violence can occur in same-sex
Be sure to complete a thorough report.