Advocating for Domestic Violence Victims Who Have Been Arrested for Domestic Violence.

See complete Women’s Justice Center article.

Introduction
One of the effects of stricter laws and policies directing police to treat domestic violence as serious violent crime has been skyrocketing arrest rates of women for domestic violence. In some police departments the percentage of domestic violence arrests of females has shot up to 30 to 40 percent of the arrests. What’s most revealing about this massive shift toward arresting more females is the fact that conviction rates for males vs. females remains basically unchanged. Between 90 and 95 percent of domestic violence convictions continue to be convictions of males. Or looking at it from another angle, a study in San Diego found that in cases in which females were arrested for domestic violence, only 6% of those cases resulted in prosecution.

What these and many other studies strongly suggest is that the evidence in most female arrests is so flimsy or non-existent that prosecutors can’t justify filing charges, or even if the prosecutor does file, the evidence doesn’t stand up in court and the case is quickly dismissed. Clearly, in a significant number of these cases, the officers are mistakenly arresting the victim of domestic violence and not the perpetrator. This is also the conclusion that we and many other victim advocates around the country have come to in dealing with these cases on a day by day basis. All too often, when women are arrested for domestic violence you’re dealing with a victim who has been mistakenly designated as a perpetrator.

Women’s advocates around the country feel the skyrocketing arrests of females for domestic violence stems from a combination of causes. In some cases outright officer hostility against women, or officer resentment of having to treat domestic violence as serious crime, motivates the arrest. In other cases officers are failing to properly determine the dominant aggressor. In a common variation of this problem, the officer fails to correctly identify defensive wounds and as a result they are arresting women who defend themselves, especially those women who defend themselves successfully. And in another whole set of cases, there are indications that domestic violence perpetrators themselves have gotten increasingly sophisticated at turning the law on women by doing such things as calling 911 themselves or by purposely injuring themselves before police arrive.

To be sure, there are cases in which the arrest of a female for domestic violence is a legitimate arrest. But the observations of victim advocates and studies around the country indicate that in a high proportion of female arrests, it is a domestic violence victim who has been mistakenly arrested. These victims need very special care and advocacy from you in order to keep them safe and to undo the damage that’s done by a bad arrest.

See complete Women’s Justice Center article.