• Raya

Intimate Partner Violence: The Criminal Justice System's Fallacious Response

A system where victims are shamed and blamed for their abuse which leads to their reluctancy to report their abuse and seek help. Victims experience victim shaming, discrimination, and being criminalized through their attempts to report to the criminal justice system for help. Unfortunately, there is a notion that males dominate the criminal justice system which can be seen due to the effect it has on the reluctancy of IPV victims to report their abuse. Criminal justice system officials have deemed IPV as a crime not worthy of investigating and prosecuting due to a culture that women should be put in their place through being chastised. Current policies and legislation fail to provide justice to victims due to their lack of understanding and empathy.

Often times victims of IPV don't feel comfortable turning to the criminal justice system or law enforcement as they fear that they will be blamed, not taken seriously, or justice wont be served. Victims of IPV feel more comfortable confiding in their friends and family than in formal outlets which is a result of the criminal justice systems perceived inability to provide assistance. Historically, partner abuse was viewed as normal and was even accepted. In fact english law allowed for men to "moderately" chastise their wives with sticks as long as the sticks weren't bigger than their thumbs. In Joyner V. Joyner in 1622, the court found that a husband has the right to "use the necessary degree of force to persuade the woman to behave and know her place." It is important to take note that this decision came from the criminal justice system itself, which is meant to protect individuals. There is an ideology that women belong to men, thus historically judges have been completely open in letting it be known that issues within relationships should be handled in private and not in the court setting. In the 19th century the law that allowed men to chastise their women was abolished.

There are various reasons that victims are hesitant to reach out to the criminal justice system for help but they all stem from the system's subpar response and lack of real concern and help. Women are often hesitant to reach out because they believe that men dominate the criminal justice system. They believe that men are superior in the law and thus won't be punished. The criminal justice system lacks the ability and the tools to understand the victims of IPV. This is made apparent as victims are met with stereotypes and are blamed for their abuse. Perhaps the most troubling research that has been found in regards to IPV is that those who don't hold criminal justice degrees are more empathic and understanding towards IPV victims than those who do hold CJ degrees. In other words, criminal justice degree holders don't find IPV as a crime worthy of investigating.This is problematic as these are the individuals, given they go on to work in the CJ system that will have first hand encounters with victims and who will be deemed responsible ensuring that justice is served. Research has shown that their are 5 main reasons why victims are hesitant to report:

  1. The victims feel shame about whatever role they played in the abuse

  2. They fear they will lose the financial support of their abuser

  3. They want to keep their family together

  4. They are emotionally attached to the abuser

  5. They are afraid of their abuser

Dual arrest is another major reason why victims are hesitant to report, as they are arrested along with their abuser once the police arrive. A dual arrest is when both the victim and the abuser and arrested, this is a form of victim shaming and blaming. How is it that the victim is arrested when they are the one who called for help. Please note that I mean in cases where there is no abuse being carried out by both sides, I mean when there is one partner being abused by the other. The bottom line is that victims feel as though the criminal justice system cannot and will not protect them. Every time an individual has an interaction with police that they deem as not being meaningful that decreases the likelihood that they will turn to the police in the future.

Too many times do police view IPV as not worthy of their time or even worthy of police work in general. This goes back to the ideology that it is a private matter to be handled in the home, which is intolerable as the police are who we are supposed to turn to when we need help. There are times when police will purposely ignore or take their time going out to IPV calls. Police, however, do receive training on how to deal with these types of calls,however, just like with any other issue officers have a level of discretion and ultimately, their own ideologies are reflected on how they handle certain calls. In certain cases, officers identify with the abuser thus examining what behavior the victim engaged in which resulted in the abuse. Law enforcement officers being the first line of contact with IPV victims is complex, as some officers will be quick to make an arrest and others will have exhibit a tolerance for domestic violence. Victim's abuse is downplayed and often times they are advised to not pursue further action.

The absolute worst part of IPV in the criminal justice system is that if the victim doesn't cooperate they can be charged with a misdemeanor. This diminishes the purpose of law enforcement as it is meant to protect and serve. Instead, it criminalizes victims. Which unfortunately, seems to be a trend in the United States Criminal Justice System. In court cases involving IPV, victims are attacked by the defense as they portray the picture that the victim is somehow the abuser or that there was mutual abuse on each side. When will we have a system where victims can be victims and not equally if not more criminalized than the perpetrator? There is a perception that IPV isn't real which leads to victims not wanting to pursue further action as attorneys who are supposed to help them poke holes in their story which basically discourages them from wanting to go forward.

"When will we have a system where victims can be victims and not equally if not more criminalized than the perpetrator? "

According to the NCADV:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime

  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime

  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries

The most important and first step in improving the criminal justice system’s response to IPV is to restore the confidence victims have in reporting IPV and seeking help through the system. Outdated and ineffective policies need to be examined and either fixed or terminated. In doing so special training needs to be implemented to equip not only police officers but judges and magistrates as well on how to aid IPV victims. The training must be consistent from the leaders of the criminal justice system all the way down to the individuals in the academy. As previously stated, the culture of how IPV victims are viewed and treated in the criminal justice system needs to evolve and adapt to the new day and age. Patriarchal views need to be abolished as they are a determining factor in how one handles an IPV victim.

Seminars should be implemented after in depth and conclusive studies have been conducted on what methods are successful in ensuring the victims safety and protection. In order to have successful programs and methods the criminal justice system needs to mesh with the social work field as the two of them are both disciplines that study interactions between people. The network can venture out beyond just social work, psychologists and psychiatrists can be used as victims experience PTSD and other lasting mental deficits as a result of their abuse and feelings of hopelessness. These programs have to be realistic and tangible without having to seek out excessive money and resources. It is crucial that the criminal justice system has the ability to practice programs, policies, and legislations that are focused on the protection of the victim while holding the offender accountable.

In focusing on the victim and holding the offender accountable the victim’s confidence in the criminal justice system will increase. The issue that the criminal justice system will encounter is how to tailor policies to victims with different typologies. The reality of IPV is that not every case will be the same, however, once research is done through generalizable samples that can be applied to the population, researchers will have a better idea of what information to provide to the criminal justice system in order for them to create new and better policies. A codified list of common aspects of IPV can be compiled and used assist officers to determine what steps to take when they encounter an IPV victim.



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