Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Response to "Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls"

Recently on Police Link, which bills itself as the Nation's Law Enforcement Community, a post entitled Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls detailed some of the hazards police officers face when responding to domestic violence calls, and offered tips for those officers to minimize the risks to their personal safety. The idea of this post is quite useful. Part of domestic violence response training for police officers should include training on how to preserve their own lives. Domestic violence calls can be some of the most dangerous, and each department should equip their officers with all of the knowledge necessary to avoid being hurt or killed in the line of duty.

Unfortunately, the author of this particular piece seems to have a special contempt for domestic violence calls.

The author recounts an (unsourced) story he/she has read about a police officer being shot by an abuser after respondeding to a domestic violence call, which leads the author to expand upon experienced-based tips on handling "domestics". With each tip category's introduction, it is clear that the author needs more training on the nature of domestic violence, and feels that the victims bring their troubles on themselves.

Exercise Caution
Consider this: There's a reason that you're called to a location. The transition from domestic bliss to domestic violence can take place in the blink of a wandering eye and the person requesting your presence often has some legitimate expectation of getting his or her [expletive] beat. And the person who may inflict such harm might not care who's on the receiving end. (Emphasis Added)

This entire paragraph demonstrates the mindset that domestic violence is the result of one incident (that is the fault of the victim) that pushes an otherwise rational human being "over the edge". Let us be clear, this is patently false. Domestic violence is systematic terroristic behavior. A person who manages to survive in a violent relationship is well-studied in the behaviors that do not upset their significant other. The problem with this type of safety plan is that the violence is not truly related to emotional responses. It isn't the result of stress, or alcohol, or infidelity. It is a thought-out way to exact control over another human being, and the violence will continue in some way or another no matter what the victim does. These rages are not uncontrolled episodes where the abuser "might not care who's on the receiving end." The abuser very much cares. And while the violence may spill over to a police officer, or someone else who is trying to offer help, those people are simply collateral damage to an abuser demonstrating that there is no one who can protect their victim.

Maintain Peace and Safety
If the person is on site and you're able to contact them, first determine if there's been a crime involved. Whether or not one has been committed, tell the person you're assisting to keep their mouth shut so they don't provoke the aggressor into going Jerry Springer on their [expletive], or more importantly, yours.

Conduct a cursory pat-down search of BOTH parties. Considering the nature of circumstances, the omnipresent threat of danger associated with such calls, the understandably agitated frame of mind of the distraught boyfriend/husband/significant other, and the possibility that one/the other/both may have a weapon to launch or prevent an attack, it shouldn't be too hard for you to justify your need for doing so. (Emphasis Added)

Here again there is the repeated theme that domestic violence is an emotional response to some sort of provocation. In addition, the emphasis is on putting responsibility on the victim to not "provoke the aggressor" rather than taking steps to effectively neutralize the abuser, i.e. the one who has actually committed a crime. The author even enters the apologist frame of mind at this point in the post, stating that the "boyfriend/husband/significant other" will have an understandably agitated frame of mind.

Personal Experience
I hate domestics, and was wounded while responding to one when an idiot ambushed another deputy and myself with an AK47. Perhaps predictably, the girlfriend we saved—the one who, along with her family, was the object of the suspect's murderous rage in the first place—[expletive] backward when it came time to go to court and testified on his behalf (he was still sentenced to 160 years).

Personally, I believe that the first time any person becomes a victim of domestic violence, law enforcement officers should do everything in their power to insulate them from any further attack. But the moment they go back to the abusive son of a [expletive], then we should be able to wash our hands of them. Professionally we don't have that discretion: We are expected to continually run interference on behalf of these Darwin Award aspirants.

Ignoring the general tone of obvious contempt and disrespect that litters the "Personal Experience" section of this post, we can still see the continuing theme of a complete misunderstanding of the nature of domestic violence. Once again, we have to reiterate that domestic violence is systematic terroristic behavior used to control another person. If, as the author states, this abuser was not only trying to kill the victim but had also threatened to kill her family, it is no way strange that she would be scared to testify and may in fact have logically felt that the only way to protect her family was to testify for the defense. It is unfortunately likely that she had had previous experience with unhelpful law enforcement and had no reason to believe that her abuser would not be right back out on the street. If the attitude of the author is consistent with his/her department, then it shouldn't shock him that the victim would feel that the criminal justice system would ultimately be of no help to her.

The author's ludicrous Darwin Award insinuation that repeat victims of domestic violence are stupid implies that the main reason the victims return to their abusers is out of a genuine belief that things will change. In fact, the number one reason that victims return to their abusers is an economic inability to go anywhere else. Economic reasons are followed closely by the desire to protect their family and themselves. It is well documented that a woman is in the greatest danger of being killed after she leaves or attempts to leave the relationship.

Perhaps if the author really doesn't want to continue to be called out to the same locations time and time again, he/she ought to lobby for better victim's resources, more law enforcement training, or more effective domestic violence legislation rather than jumping on the victim-blaming bandwagon.

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