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...

  • 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.
Go to index