V. Victims of Domestic Violence
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 is okay.
- Separate the parties involved in domestic violence before interviewing
them, even if they are not violent or arguing when you arrive.
- Ask victims whether they would like you to contact a family member
- 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 abuse.
- 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 with referral information on domestic violence shelters
and battered womens programs. This should be done away from the
- Remember that domestic violence can occur in same-sex relationships.
- Be sure to complete a thorough report.
|First Response to Victims of Crime