The crime of domestic violence is complex and law enforcement officers often feel frustrated and discouraged when responding. Officers provide as much support to victims as possible, but when equipped with a better understanding of the nuances and dynamics of this intimate partner crime, they can more effectively address victims’ needs and hold offenders accountable. In order to present law enforcement with information to strengthen the response to victims of domestic violence, the IACP has created a four-part training video: The Crime of Domestic Violence, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. This video highlights the realities and complexities of domestic violence and provides strategies for effective investigations.
Segment 1: Critical Context
“Leaving is a process, not an event”
As first responders, law enforcement officers play a significant role supporting victims of violence and providing needed support. It is critical that officers build an understanding of the dynamics of power and control as well as the course of conduct nature of domestic violence. Until misconceptions and frustrations about victims and victim behaviors are addressed, the response to this crime will be unsuccessful and potentially harmful. This segment will begin to unpack many of these misperceptions and present information to strengthen the overall understanding of this complex crime.
Segment 2: On Scene Response
“You’ve got to look at the history”
Domestic violence is a course of conduct crime. There are often multiple incidents and abusive behaviors over an extended period of time. Responding officers need to be equipped with this understanding in order to capture pertinent details to support the victim, hold the offender accountable, and a conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation. It is critical that officers build rapport and trust with victims when on-scene. The second segment provides information about documenting threats, intimidation, trauma, and fear, as well as effective report writing, and conducting supportive interviews to empower victims.
Segment 3: Offender Realities & Threats to Officers
“You can’t separate officer safety from victim safety”
Isolation. Coercion. Manipulation. Threats. The tactics that perpetrators of abuse use to control victims are often the same tactics they will use on responding officers. When the abuser’s power is threatened, domestic violence calls can put officers in risk of harm and, all too often, become lethal situations. Segment three highlights the danger/lethality of domestic violence calls, information about offender behaviors that may indicate increased risk for victims and officers, and details that officers should gather before approaching a scene.
Segment 4: Working Together
You need everyone if you’re going to make a difference
Law enforcement alone cannot provide all the needed support and resources to victims; it takes partnerships. By establishing multiagency, multidisciplinary collaborations, the needs of victims and communities overall can be better provided for. The fourth segment presents compelling details about how partnerships and collaborations can impact the safety and healing of victims, as well as strengthen law enforcement investigations. Segment four highlights promising practices for responding to domestic violence and effective collaborative models, and the benefits of such alliances.