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Edward D. Reuss
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In one of the foremost college texts, Family Violence: Legal, Medical, and Social Perspectives, by Harvey Wallace, the author writes in the first paragraph of the book that, "All of these [family violence] professionals have expertise in their own area of specialization. However, they may not understand or appreciate the difficulties experienced by others in their areas of interest. For example, a member of the medical profession may be able to diagnose physical injuries but not understand the complexities of the courtroom."

     The October 2001 issue of the National Bulletin on Domestic Violence Prevention has an article concerning domestic violence training for law enforcement that documents this reality. The article notes that a victim assistance coordinator at a women's shelter conducts "family violence" training for police officers. It also notes that the intent is to ensure that every cop in the nation receives "domestic violence" training and that officers are being instructed in how to handle calls involving "family violence." One of the instructors, a legal advocate for a Women's Community Association, states that she believes the training is useful for the police, victims and the victim's children. This "battered women" model is important, useful and beneficial to all involved. There should be little dispute that in violence between men and women, in which the more chronic, injurious, and sexual assaults are suffered, women are the predominant victim. However, the problem concerning the "battered women" model is that it does not reflect the majority of police intervention concerning "family or domestic violence".

     Although the "battered women" model views domestic violence as only violence against women, all states have in place various forms of domestic violence statute and law that, in fact, do not limit domestic violence by age or gender. The criminalization of domestic violence has caused the enigma to be defined legally and legislatively. Hence nationwide, by fact of legislation, domestic violence is not only and exclusively defined as violence against women. Domestic violence by virtue of criminal and civil statute law is child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner, and elder abuse regardless of age or gender. Domestic violence training for police officers must reflect that reality.

               Most researchers and professionals agree that "battered women" suffer from what is contemporarily labeled "patriarchal terrorism." Researchers and professionals agree that a "battered woman" is a woman whose life is thoroughly, extensively, and completely controlled by a man and her behavior is purposely altered to suit a mans desire. A batterer systematically uses physical abuse, economic subordination, threats, isolation, and a variety of other behavioral controlling tactics to ensure the victim complies. Central to this "battered women" style of training is the belief that institutionalized male dominance over women and children in the family and the subordination of women in society, is the primary reason, men beat and batter women. The core principle for most of this "battered women" training is the "Duluth Batterers Model" intervention program developed in Duluth, Minnesota. This "battered women" training recognizes only the Feminist or Cognitive-Behavioral theory of domestic violence.

     The "battered women" model of domestic violence training, most often, excludes any mention of the other two equally valid and commonly accepted theories of domestic violence. The Family Conflict theory maintains that familial styled abuse is sometimes the result of stresses created in dysfunctional families where each abuser strives, through the use of conflict and control, for a dominant role in the family. In this view either partner may contribute to the escalation of violence. The "battered women" model chooses to ignore the Psychotherapeutic theory that proffers that personality disorder and/or early traumatic life experience can predispose some people to use control and conflict in family relationships. Hence, by its very nature, this contemporary "battered women" model training is not "family or domestic violence" training. This "battered women" model of training is important and must continue as each and every police officer in every city and town in this nation will respond to this particular aberrant form of domestic violence.  However, the "battered women" myopic presentation is not representative of the majority of domestic or family violence incidents that police officers respond to.

     The form of domestic violence police officers most often respond to is not "battered women" but rather family conflict abuse. Family conflict abuse is often an isolated act, the victim is not a "battered woman" and the assailant is not a "batterer." Family conflict abuse can be motivated by an isolated argument, anger, jealousy or revenge for some perceived prior misbehavior. Similar to the "battered women" model this form of abuse is not caused by but, often can occur because of a loss of inhibition fueled by an excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs. Child, sibling, intimate partner, and elder abuse are also common domestic violence calls for police officers. The "battered women" model training does not acknowledge what the proper response should be concerning these forms of abuse. In fact, data collected from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) document that almost half of law enforcement domestic violence intervention do not involve a spousal styled relationship but rather what it labels "Other Family" or "Other Relationships." Ellen Pence, one of the most influential feminists and the co-founder of the Duluth model, believes that not every case of domestic violence is best resolved in a courtroom, that every act of domestic violence does not necessarily lead to a serious attack on a victim and that many individual victims will not be helped by a prosecution.

     In "battered women" training males who are punched, slapped, kicked, or otherwise assaulted by females are mentioned only in passing as a fact. The, "battered women" training proffers that women who do assault men are acting in self-defense. For officers who do not seem to understand what is intended by "a batterer" this training model explains to officers that they should arrest the "dominant [read male] aggressor." One of the trainers in the October Domestic Violence Prevention Bulletin article states, "I think the police understand domestic violence a lot better now." However, what the officers now understand is "battered women" intervention and not the "family or domestic violence" incidents officers most often respond to.

     Battered women victims need and deserve a considerate, compassionate, and empathic response from police officers. However, proper domestic violence training and education for police officers must reflect the reality that all victims of domestic violence deserve consideration, compassion, and empathy for their victimization regardless of the causal factor, frequency, and severity of abuse, regardless of age or gender.

Copyright © 2001 Richard L. Davis



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