Does Mandated Domestic Violence Police Arrest Help or Hurt Domestic Abuse Families?

Over a year ago a newspaper reporter asked me this very question and I was on the fence. I thought I understood the battered women’s perspective and appreciated the police correction’s side. I truly can see this from both points of view, but today if I had to vote, I’d vote against mandated arrest.

Mandated Arrest for Domestic Violence

Mandated arrest is a law that requires law enforcement to make an arrest when specific conditions exist, which are indicative of the presence of domestic violence. The particulars differ from state to state for the states that have adopted mandated arrest for domestic abuse.

Mandated Domestic Violence Arrest and Police Corrections

The fundamental belief is that once domestic abuse leaks out to law enforcement, the victim can be manipulated or coerced into dropping charges. She is likely to be overpowered by the abuser to yield to his wishes. And in many cases this is exactly what happens. It happened to me 18 years ago.

In my particular case, mandated arrest could have helped my children and me. This is clear to me now. However, this is not always the case for domestic violence families.

Mandated Arrest and Battered Women

Individuals in the domestic abuse shelter communities are strongly opposed to mandated arrest because it takes the ultimate decision of proceeding with charges out of the victim’s hands. Essentially this gives her no say at a time when her vision embraces more of the whole family circumstance than that of anyone else.

In many respects it robs her of her basic human rights to make her own decisions regarding her welfare. It declares her momentarily incompetent to make this family abuse milestone decision. The reason I was on the fence over this debate is because I knew this “state of incompetence.” It is very real in cases of true unidirectional intimate partner violence.

However, most cases of domestic abuse are not so clear-cut. And when that is the situation, basic rights are infringed upon. Many people liken it to laws prohibiting abortion in that the woman is denied “her choice,” in a situation regarding her body… and her family. Mandated arrest for domestic abuse is seen as further victimizing the survivor… dis-empowering her, even more.

The Downside of Mandated Arrest

I have seen far too many cases when mandated arrest brought irreparable destruction to families that needed psychological care over corrections. One such case resulted in the perpetrator’s suicide and another in exacerbated psychopathology with severe implications for innocent minor children.

If you are “considering” going to the police, it will be in your interest to understand the specific implications of doing so. Know the laws in your state and the consequences of these statutes.

The keyword-operative word-here is “considering.” This word must be distinguished from a reflex urgent 911 call. You will want to call for immediate police help if you are in imminent danger. On the other hand, if you are reflecting on a domestic abuse altercation weeks on end after the fact, consider with full consideration, competency and care.