Checklist: How Police DV Is Different
©1997 Diane Wetendorf. All Rights Reserved. International Association of Chiefs of Police Seminar, 7-9 April 1997.
As a victim of a police officer, your situation is vastly different than that of other domestic violence victims.
You have nowhere to hide...
- Your abuser has isolated you from family, friends, and other officers' wives.
- Your abuser intimidates your family and friends, making them afraid to help you.
- He knows or can easily find out where women's shelters are located.
- Your abuser may know shelter personnel and gain entrance or information either by lying or through intimidation.
- You may be afraid that staying at a shelter or with family or friends will put others at risk.
- You may not trust domestic violence advocates to keep your information confidential.
- You may be hesitant to access medical care because you are on your abuser's health insurance and/or medical providers may be required to contact law enforcement.
- The usual sources of community help and support may be unavailable, untrained, or unwilling to help you.
- Your abuser has access to restricted law enforcement databases such as vehicle registration, social security, credit records, etc.
Your abuser has professional training to...
- Take control in all situations.
- Intimidate by his presence alone — uniform, stance, voice.
- Interrogate people to get information.
- Deceive and manipulate.
- Blame others for his use of force.
- Use a variety of weapons.
- Use his body as a weapon.
- Inflict pain and leave no marks or bruises.
Misuse of law enforcement tools and activities...
- Patrols your house, workplace, children's daycare or school.
- Uses surveillance equipment to monitor your phone, computer, vehicle, residence.
- Bypasses security systems to gain entry to your house or vehicle.
- Enlists neighbors to watch and report to him in return for favors.
- Harasses you, your family or friends with bogus traffic stops, plants drugs or weapons to justify arrests.
You face overwhelming psychological threats and barriers...
- People falsely label you as crazy, paranoid, or a troublemaker.
- Family, friends, or neighbors may not honor your confidentiality.
- Your disclosure of abuse challenges others' images of a police officer.
- Your abuser warns you that people will believe his version of the story because he is a police officer.
- You know he will punish you if you interfere with his job.
- He uses interrogation and "The Voice" to intimidate and humiliate you and loved ones.
- He has the means to harm or kill you.
- He claims to know how to commit the perfect crime.
- He claims to know people who would harm you or your family at his direction.
- He threatens to kill you and himself if he loses his job.
- He threatens to kill you and make it look like a suicide.
- He suggests that you kill yourself with his weapon.
Problems with calling the police...
- He is the police.
- Police may be slow in responding to calls from your home.
- When responding officers — his colleagues and friends — arrive at your home they may:
- Believe his claims that he was defending himself against you, restraining you from hurting him, or that your wounds are self-inflicted.
- Show greater concern for the department's liability or public image than for your safety.
- Sympathize with your abuser, automatically responding to an "officer in need of assistance" rather than to you, the actual victim.
- Attempt to talk you out of making a formal report and/or signing a criminal complaint, urging you to consider the impact on his career.
- Accuse you of lying or threaten you with arrest.
- Make you feel that you have betrayed the police family by calling for help.
Officers' advantages in legal system...
- He purposely misrepresents criminal or civil law to discourage you from using the legal system.
- The state's attorney may discourage you from signing a complaint or may refuse to press charges against a police officer.
- He is familiar with court and legal proceedings while you may be intimidated by the courtroom, judge, lawyers.
- Officers often personally know the judges, bailiffs, prosecutors, attorneys.
- Officers are professionally trained to present themselves well in court. He knows what to say and how to shade the truth or to turn evidence.
- He has fellow officers in uniform accompany him to court to intimidate you and those who are there to support you.
- Officers are allowed in the courtroom wearing their weapons.
- Judges often reprimand both parties, insinuating that you are both equally at fault.
When the victim is a police officer...
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- The abuse jeopardizes your career.
- The abuser may maneuver you into drawing your weapon in self-defense.
- You don't fit the stereotype of the battered woman. People find it hard to believe that a police officer can be a victim.
- You may hesitate to seek help from department or community resources.
- You may not want to access medical care because health care coverage is through your department.
- Fellow officers may no longer trust your ability to protect them; you may be perceived as unable to protect yourself.
- Fellow officers may perceive your presence to be a risk.
- Your desire to confide in fellow officers may be hampered by a department policy that mandates officers to report knowledge of domestic violence.
- You will be perceived as a traitor if you violate the code of silence by reporting the abuse.
- Your colleagues may ostracize you.
- Your colleagues may ignore or delay their response to your calls for back-up.
- Your abuser and other officers may pressure you to quit your job.
- The code of silence forbids fellow officers from helping you or confronting the abuser.