Content Warning: This story shares statistics with details about domestic violence, rape, and violence against women.
Domestic violence is a problem everywhere across the nation. According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “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.”
The NCADV also notes that “the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%” and that “intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.” These are important factors to take into consideration when considering how the problem of police violence can extend to police households.
The New Yorker reported that “[i]n the nineteen-nineties, researchers found that forty-one per cent of male officers admitted that, in the previous year, they’d been physically aggressive toward their spouses, and nearly ten per cent acknowledged choking, strangling, or using - or threatening to use - a knife or a gun.” However, it goes on to say that “there are almost no empirical studies examining the prevalence of this sort of abuse today.”
Being that’s the case, the problem of intimate violence in police households is something that’s going largely overlooked and possibly underreported by victims. Some consider this to be part of the institutional code of silence around police misconduct. The Advocates for Human Rights describe this, saying, “discretion granted to officers in determining how to respond to allegations of abuse… may lead an abusing officer’s colleagues to not take action or to emphasize the private, familial nature of the problem.”
The National Center for Women and Policing has stated that “domestic violence is 2-4 times more common among police families than American families in general,” based on the data that’s available. They go on to note that “even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution, raising concern that those who are tasked with enforcing the law cannot effectively police themselves.”
The problem of domestic violence is especially bad for women. The gendered nature of this issue is not limited to the household - it’s also connected to a larger societal problem of violence against women in general.
Police officers were charged with 636 cases of forcible fondling and over 400 cases of rape in just a 9 year period, according to Bowling Green State University researchers. These are just the cases that are known, meaning that the person reporting actually came forward. This isn’t always the case.
Black women experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence, according to CDC data and homicide rates. Half of the women killed in the United States are killed by intimate partners.
While more research is needed, what we do know presents a terrifying picture of what’s going wrong across the country.
If you’re experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.