Global Human Rights Defence

THE SILENCED VICTIMS OF THE BLUE COMMUNITY
Person Holding a Gun in a Holster. Source: Kindel Media/Pexels, 2021.

Author: Jayantika Rao Tiruvaloor Viavoori

Department: Women’s Rights Team

Introduction

 Eliminating violence against women (VAW) has been a crucial international commitment for years, that has been incorporated into national and international conventions. The progress within this area took a nosedive after the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (hereinafter referred to as Covid-19). To combat the spread of the virus, many governments imposed national lockdowns and home confinements. While the steps taken were necessary, they had adverse consequences on society, especially for women. UN Women launched the Shadow Pandemic Public Awareness campaign to highlight that domestic violence (DV) has intensified exponentially during the pandemic (UN Women, 2021). UN Women imply that parallel to the visible pandemic of Covid-19 exists a shadow pandemic of domestic violence. The rise in DV cases results from locking women with their abusers (UN Women, 2021), thus, creating two pandemics. 

  Owing to Covid-19, many governments gave their law enforcement agencies more responsibility in controlling the spread of the virus and promoting safer communities. The pandemic expanded the peripheries of policing well beyond what was previously understood as legitimate (Kyprianides et al., 2021). Increasing the scope of police agencies’ power has been beneficial, but what does it mean in other avenues of policing, including in relation to DV. Moreover, the police, who are supposed to protect women from violence, could at times be a part of the problem. Research on police officers as perpetrators of DV is an area that needs considerable in-depth examination. While the relationship between militarised masculinity and domestic violence has been well-documented (Kelly, 2000; Langa and Eagle, 2008, Goodmark, 2015; Ferguson, 2021), there is a gap in the field that examines police officers as perpetrators. By mainly focusing on the American police force, this article will highlight the issue of violence against women in police families and the challenges that DV victims may experience when trying to get protection from their police spouses. Discussing the tendency of DV to occur within police families is essential to raise awareness in order to create a specific legal framework to protect the victims and as they are also tasked with enforcing domestic violence laws in their community. As a first responder to DV, the police officer’s attitude and perception of DV and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) are crucial in getting help for victims, and a negative response may result in secondary victimisation. 

Definition

  Domestic Violence (DV) is an extensive term used to describe behaviour in a relationship that uses or maintains power and control over an intimate partner. This type of violence can include physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, or economic actions or threats of action to influence another person (UN Women, 2021). Behaviours meant to terrorise, intimidate, frighten, manipulate, or even humiliate are considered domestic violence. Irrespective of gender, race, or religion, DV affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. World Health Organisation (WHO) found that nearly one in four women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner (WHO, 2021). However, DV is underreported, as women are not believed, or there is a lack of physical evidence, especially in cases that involve psychological/emotional or economic threats. Though DV affects women worldwide, the focus of this article is a small segment of the American population – law enforcement agencies. 

Scope of the Problem

   DV among police families is a relatively understudied field. The two primary surveys conducted in the 1990s that specifically focused on police families revealed that two out of five or 40 percent of police families had experienced DV (Anderson and Lo, 2011). This estimation was backed by a 2015 US survey that found that 40 percent of police personnel acknowledged that they had committed acts considered DV at home in the last six months (Hope and Rosilin, 2015). Therefore, it is posited that the average rate for DV in police families is 20 percent, which is considered double the general population’s rate (Williamson, 2021). Due to the underreporting and culture of silence within the police department, surveys are rare and are conducted mainly within small groups of up to 500 participants. Despite this, Burmon (2022) hypothesised that American police officers perpetrate acts of violence at roughly 15 times that of the general population. DV statistics about the ‘blue’ community are eye-opening and shocking. In research conducted by Valentine, Oehme and Martin (2012), it was disclosed that more than half of the responding officers personally knew at least one officer that committed domestic violence that went unreported. Journalists like Friedersdorf (2014) and Hope and Roslin (2015) have called the problem an epidemic that has been kept a secret for years. 

   The small body of literature on police offenders of DV has mainly explained the violent behaviour resulting from their profession. Police Culture refers to the social norms, values and attitudes that have been socialised among the officers influenced by their occupation to cope with everyday issues (Williamson, 2021). Therefore, as many studies have highlighted, the ‘blue’ community is a highly tight knit group that tends to follow its own code. Their occupational subculture reinforces male dominance, aggression, control, and masculinity, which is an essential factor causing DV in the vast literature that examines violence from a gender perspective. 

  Police work is considered one of the most masculinised occupations that glorifies violence while promoting a “cult of masculinity” (Fagerlund, 2021). Police sexism believes that women are responsible for men’s violence, thus, having serious consequences. Police training is designed to create an authoritative figure that increases the likelihood of domestic violence. Police training imparts methods to combine verbal commands with physical acts to control individuals to make them complacent to the officer (Williamson, 2021). Exposure to such methods and other factors that influence domestic violence, like job stress, is highly harmful to police officers’ partners. Job stress occurs by continuously experiencing gruesome situations and is often brought into police officers’ personal lives, resulting in deviant behaviours like DV.

   Many scholars have also recognised that many police officers worldwide are more conservative, especially regarding their attitudes towards domestic violence (Li et al., 2021). While there are many reasons for their outlooks concerning domestic violence, their perception is often linked to their “patriarchal views of gender roles and gender equality” (Li et al., 2021). The problem of DV within police families creates more problems, notably, improper investigations of other DV cases by police agencies based on attitudes. Police attitudes based on personal opinion influence the response toward DV. For example, if a police officer is abusive at home, he is more than likely to interpret DV situations as lesser offences or might even sympathise with the perpetrator. Among the first responders, police officers are responsible for identifying the crime to a specific code (Notko et al., 2022), deterring victims from getting protection or legal aid. 

Evidence of the Problem

    DV within police families is infamous yet hardly discussed in academia or policy formulation due to a lack of primary data. Nevertheless, researching news articles on police officers arrested or accused of domestic violence is never-ending. Recently, a Prichard police Officer, Markell Carter, was arrested and charged with “strangulation or suffocation plus interference with an emergency call” while on duty (Fox 10 News, 2022). Despite the officer’s disturbing record that showed that he had been previously arrested and accused of harassment and domestic violence, his bail was only set at 10,000 USD. According to the Prichard’s Police Chief, Carter was acquitted of the four DV charges (Fingert, 2022). However, records show that the charges were dropped for varying reasons which does not prove innocence. Despite the case against him, Carter is still employed at the department and is on paid leave. 

   Cases like Markell Carter are not rare occurrences. Rosaura Torres, an author who has written about her experience of being in a physically abusive marriage, revealed details about the police department’s compliance with DV within police families. Rosaura’s ex-husband was a high-ranking police officer in the Philadelphia police force who beat, kicked, and choked her during her 20 years of marriage. The ordeal left her with a detached retina that led to partial blindness (Cheema, 2016). Despite Rosaura’s pleas to him to stop the violence and her threats to report his behaviour, the violence against her continued as he knew he would get away with his crime. Rosaura wrote to the police and city officials detailing her ordeal and the abuse she faced, but it was all ignored (Cheema, 2016). The police department ignored her plea for help while instead promoting her husband. Rosaura was able to escape the abuse when she ended the marriage. However, her husband was never charged with any crime, as in her books, she attributes it to the blue wall of silence where the police protect their people. 

The sad reality of the problem is that the cases above are not prominent in the media. Owing to police officers’ ability to carry guns, often DV within police families may get some news attention when their stories end in death. For example, in 2014, a Utah police officer (Joshua Boren) killed his wife, children, and mother-in-law before shooting himself with his service weapon after he received texts from his wife that expressed her desire to leave him after confronting him for raping her (Connor, 2014). 

Issue With Reporting

   Owing to their position in society, the authorisation to legally carry deadly weapons and their ability to influence official proceedings make police officers as offenders of DV more problematic and dangerous. Victims of DV within police families are hesitant to report their abuse as they fear retaliation or believe their complaints will not be taken seriously. However, those who report abuse find that the department set up to protect them from abuse does not believe their claims and does not conduct investigations properly (Cheema, 2016). Police officers that are perpetrators of DV are often protected by their community as other police officers trust their partners over the victim. Moreover, police officers can malign the victim’s credibility (their spouse) before the victim even reports the abuse because of their power and status. At times, the accusations are turned against the victim by the officers tasked with investigating the claim due to their personal association with the offender. Thus, ensuring that the victim’s claim is disregarded. While in recent years, American police departments have started taking DV allegations seriously, it usually is not set up for the purpose of protecting the victims. Instead, they are more concerned with the department’s image and the career of the alleged officer (Williamson, 2021). The department safeguards American police officers to show solidarity in a masculine culture. Victims of DV whose spouses are within the police department refrain from reporting their spouse for the crime. 

Conclusion 

   Although this article attempts to shed light and expand the knowledge regarding DV within police families, it is only an exploratory endeavour. The overall picture that can make a difference, like investigation and systematic analysis, is still lacking. An essential factor contributing to the gap in the field is one of the factors affecting the DV in police families. Police Culture is extremely powerful, and sometimes the deviant practices that reinforce domestic violence are a part of the culture. Researchers have emphasised that Police Chiefs and other investigating officers often believe their officers, especially if they are friendly with the offender. Thus, allowing for police offenders to receive impunity in criminal activities like violence against women and partners because they have little fear of being reported by other officers. While this article focussed mainly on American law enforcement, there are numerous police cultures worldwide with similar problems.

References:

    Anderson, A. S., & Lo, C. C. (2011). Intimate Partner Violence Within Law Enforcement Families. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(6), 1176-1193.

    Burmon, Andrew. (2022, March 25). Police and Violence at Home: Cops Abuse Wives and Kids at Staggering Rates. Fatherly. Retrieved April 18 2022, from  https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/police-brutality-and-domestic-violence/

    Cheema, R. (2016). Black And Blue Bloods: Protecting Police Officers Families From Domestic Violence. Family Court Review, 54(3), 487-500.

Connor, T. (2014, July 8). Utah Cop Joshua Boren Killed Family, Self After Rape Text. NBC News. Retrieved April 17 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/utah-cop-joshua-boren-killed-family-self-after-rape-text-n150696

 Fagerlund, M. (2021). Gender and police response to domestic violence. Police Practice and Research, 22(1), 90-108.

 Ferguson, R. B. (2021). Masculinity And War. Current Anthropology, 62(S23), S108-S120.

Fingert, T. (2022, March 24). Prichard Police officer accused of domestic violence by ‘choking’ woman while on duty. WBRC. Retrieved  April 17 2022, from  https://www.wbrc.com/2022/03/24/prichard-police-officer-accused-domestic-violence-by-choking-woman-while-duty/

Fox 10 News. (2022, March 24). Prichard police officer charged with domestic violence. Fox 10 News. Retrieved April 17 2022, 2022 https://www.fox10tv.com/2022/03/24/prichard-police-officer-charged-with-domestic-violence/

Friedersdorf, C. (2014, September 19). Police have a much bigger Domestic-Abuse problem than the NFL Does. The Atlantic. Retrieved April 18 2022 from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/09/police-officers-who-hit-their-wives-or-girlfriends/380329/

Goodmark, L. (2015). Hands Up at Home: Militarized Masculinity and Police Officers who commit intimate partner abuse. BYU L. Rev., 1183.

Hope, S., and Roslin, A. (2015, October 31). Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence. Canadian Dimension. Retrieved April 18 2022 from https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/police-wife-the-secret-epidemic-of-police-domestic-violence

Kelly, L. (2000). Wars Against Women: Sexual Violence, Sexual. States of Conflict: Gender, violence and resistance, 45.

Kyprianides, A., Bradford, B., Beale, M., Savigar-Shaw, L., Stott, C., & Radburn, M. (2021). Policing The COVID-19 Pandemic: Police Officer Well-Being and Commitment To Democratic Modes Of Policing. Policing and Society, 1-18.

Langa, M., & Eagle, G. (2008). The Intractability of Militarised Masculinity: A Case Study of Former Self-Defence Unit Members In The Kathorus Area, South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 38(1), 152-175.

Li, L., Sun, I. Y., Lin, K., & Wang, X. (2021). Tolerance for domestic violence: do legislation and organizational support affect police view on family violence? Police practice and research, 22(4), 1376-1389.

Notko, M., Husso, M., Piippo, S., Fagerlund, M., & Houtsonen, J. (2021). Intervening in Domestic Violence: Interprofessional Collaboration Among Social and Health Care Professionals and the Police. Journal of interprofessional care, 1-9.

UN Women. (2021, November 24). Violence Against Women During Covid-19. UN Women. Retrieved April 18 2022 from, https://data.unwomen.org/publications/vaw-rga

Valentine, C., Oehme, K., & Martin, A. (2012). Correctional officers and domestic violence: Experiences and attitudes. Journal of Family Violence, 27(6), 531-545.

Williamson, M. (2021). The role of sex on officer perpetrated intimate partner violence: An empirical analysis of mechanisms of intimate partner violence. Deviant Behavior, 42(5), 611-629.

WHO. (2021). Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates, 2018: Global, Regional and National Prevalence Estimates for Intimate Partner Violence Against Women and Global and Regional Prevalence Estimates for Non-partner Sexual Violence Against Women. Executive summary. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021.

[1] In tribal usage walwar (the bride price) is the right of the father or brother to receive for his daughter or sister’s marriage (Atayee, 1979).

POPULAR POSTS

FOLLOW US

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Human Rights Film Festival The Hague

Register

Human Rights Film Festival The Hague

This will close in 0 seconds

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.