By | July 3, 2014 8 Comments

Pro-arrest policies for domestic violence show women arrests growing

When it comes to domestic violence, the traditional scenario has been of men abusing and beating women. At the Gainesville Police Department in Alachua County, Florida, arrests of women on domestic battery or assault charges have sometimes outpaced the arrests of men.

Bruce Ferris, a former Gainesville police detective who investigated domestic violence cases, said many women charged with domestic violence are themselves victims of batterers and are defending themselves or striking out against repeated abuse.

Many states have a mandatory pro-arrest policy, where if police are dispatched to a domestic violence call, the aggressor must be arrested. For officers answering a call, it is not always  easy to determine who is the aggressor for that specific incident. “Past abuse cannot be considered at the point of arrest,” says Ferris.

Pro-arrest policy blurs the lines in domestic violence, from the Gainsville Sun.

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Don’t I know it! I train police officers in handling domestic violence calls. The first thing we train is officer safety. Many times officers arrive and the situation is explosive. Their first job is to split up the people they encounter and assess the situation.

Many times the arrival of police takes the situation to a whole new level. A woman who was being beaten suddenly feels safe and empowered by police presence and strikes back at her aggressor – she gets cuffed. A woman feels threatened by the presence of police, concerned that they are only going to make her situation worse by putting the batterer in jail. He isn’t going to be a happy camper when he gets out and she is fearful of his retribution so she strikes the police officer – she gets cuffed. A woman is protecting her abuser in an effort to win him over and lessen his anger at her so she strikes the officers – she gets cuffed. What we are seeing an increase in is the woman is the batterer and the victim is covering to protect his machismo.

Police officers are trained to handle domestic violence situations first from an officer safety standpoint as officers are often injured in dealing with these calls. Often it’s the one who strikes in police presence who goes to jail. The rational being that whoever goes to jail, the immediate situation is diffused and the officers are in control.

Sometimes officers enter a situation where determining who to cuff is difficult. The officers are trained to look for bruising and ask about injuries. In general, it’s the one with the least amount of injuries who gets cuffed. Officers are trained to conduct individual interviews in different areas to minimize the ability of an abuser to intimidate the victim. Officers are trained to listen for ques as to which is the victim and which is the abuser. Sometimes it is impossible to figure it out – both covering for the abuser, both minimizing the situation, or each alleging equal offenses. Then it is up the discretion of the officers as to who they cuff.

Officers are trained in what domestic violence is. I train my officers to understand that these situations are complicated. You are walking in on families at their worst moments. Officer safety is first. They have to understand that they are not “knights in shining armor saving the damsel in distress”. They are there to keep people safe. Sometimes they guess. Sometimes they guess wrong.

The follow up to the system is remand to Batterer Intervention Programs and Domestic Violence Programs. That is where the sorting eventually happens. Victims are pulled out of BIP programs and into Domestic Violence support groups. Batterers are pulled out of Domestic Violence support groups and placed into BIP programs. It’s messy sometimes. It takes specifically trained professionals weeks to months to sort them out sometimes. Eventually it all gets worked out and appropriate help gets to where it needs to be.

As a survivor of domestic violence, I give officers a unique perspective. I caution them that while I use pronouns in training like she and her, that these pronouns can easily be switched to he and him as the situation requires. While the majority of calls they will receive will be female victims of male batterers just based on reporting numbers, they will also be encountering reverse situations and situations with the LGBT community. Officers are to act professional at all times. Their behavior in these situations can influence whether or not a victim feels safe or reports situations in the future. Their attitude can keep victims from getting the help they need if they are condescending or dismissive because of the number of calls they receive to one address. Their attitude can also embolden abusers which is something no one wants. I also BEGG them to file a report on every call. I know that’s a burden on them, but in the end, their reporting trail of documentation can be what eventually establishes a pattern of behavior which can save lives. They are often the eyes and ears of the judicial system so their professionalism is vital.

It may sound crazy, but sometimes the only way to break the cycle of violence is to put someone in jail be they batterer or victim. Often, that is what gets them into programs which gets them the help they need to leave dangerous situations – male or female.

I love doing Domestic Violence training. I wish I could do more of it.

Bets – what a fascinating post – thank you for your perspective. And thank you for the work you do!


“Many states have a mandatory pro-arrest policy, where if police are dispatched to a domestic violence call, the aggressor must be arrested. For officers answering a call, it is not always easy to determine who is the aggressor for that specific incident. “Past abuse cannot be considered at the point of arrest,” says Ferris.”

So I’m curious about something here…..they must be arrested, which means they are cuffed and stuffed and off to jail they go. but what then? You can be arrested for something and not necessarily be guilty. it’s my understanding that once you are arrested for something you have a pretty speedy appearance in front of a judge who determines if you are to be prosecuted for the crime you were arrested for, yes? They set a bond, determine the amount, etc……
Spathtardx was arrested for for Misdemeanor Domestic Battery but went through the diversion program which is a way for “first” time offenders to keep that kind of quiet. He did the diversion program and now it shows on his record the charge of Disturbing The Peace, which sounds a lot more palatable than Domestic Battery. Of course he wasn’t QUITE exactly honest with me about that!!
SO…..I just wonder. Could the entire case have been dismissed or thrown out if there was insufficient proof that he actually DID hurt her? Did the judge determine that yes indeed he needed to be prosecuted but he also allowed him the diversion program to keep his record sort of clean(er)?


That depends on the laws in your state.

The reason past abuse is not considered is that each Domestic Violence situation can be different. Alternating offenders are not uncommon. A Protective Order on file can escalate an arrest to a repeat offense and will guarantee an arrest with additional charges.

Most Domestic Violence offenses are Misdemeanor crimes. They can rise to Felony levels but that requires extensive injury and I believe intent is also considered there. I am not aware of any “diversion programs” in Texas for Domestic Violence.

In Texas we do not have mandatory arrests as a State mandate, that said, most counties and police follow the pro-arrest arrest model. It is essentially a warrantless arrest based on probably cause. Victims are given Victim’s Rights Cards which include information as to local shelters and Domestic Violence Programs for help and assistance. Victims are encouraged to go to the police and file an Emergency Protective Order. With an Emergency Protective Order the victim can then follow up with the County District Attorney in getting a Permanent Protective Order.

For the batterer, the batterer is arrested and taken to jail. A hearing is held to set bond. If he bonds out then he gets a date to report and an attorney is assigned. In court the attorney will announce a plea. If a plea of Guilty or No Contest is entered then the batterer is sentenced either to jail or probation. In concert with probation the batterer will be remanded to a Batterer’s Intervention Program. If a plea of not guilty is entered then there is an assignment of a court dated for a trial. If at trial the batterer is found guilty then the batterer is either jailed and/or given probation which again includes remand to a Batterer’s Intervention Program. We have dedicated Domestic Violence Courts to deal specifically with Domestic Violence. A batterer can be prosecuted without the victim’s testimony if a Police Report is filed.

My mission is to get Police Officers to file a report with each and every Domestic Violence call they are called to. They don’t mostly because reports are time consuming and make them responsible to appear in court in support of that document instead of being on the streets available to deal with “real crimes” I’ve heard all the excuses in the book. Bottom line for officers is that Domestic Violence is a crime that occurs mostly in the privacy of people’s homes. There usually are not witnesses. Victims are often too embarrassed to cooperate or too afraid of the batterer’s retribution if they do cooperate. Batterers often cozy up to officers with smooth talk and charm to try to convince officers that nothing really happened. For many victims one Police Report on file can save their lives. For other victims a trail of Police Reports can establish a pattern of behavior and helps the victim in court to get justice. It’s my dream that officers will file reports even if they have been to the same address 50 times. They get jaded… I understand… but I still push my dream.

Yes a batterer can be arrested, jailed, bonded, judged, and found not guilty. Those cases involve issues where the victim changed testimony and/or a police report was not filed.

The immediate concern in any Domestic Violence situation is safety. Safety of the responding officers and the safety of the citizens involved. Studies have shown that pro-arrest policies help reduce escalations. Offenders are often concerned about having a record. It helps.

Sociopaths are not concerned about anything. Sociopaths are a whole different problem which is hard to address since first you have to have someone labeled as a sociopath. There are no laws, to my knowledge, specifically to restrict behaviors of sociopaths. Sociopaths excel in hiding their true selves and manipulating people/systems which makes them hard to deal with.

At any rate, the overall idea in pro-arrest policies is to get batterers into Batterer Intervention Programs to learn new behavior patterns and to get victims into Domestic Violence Intervention Programs to help them learn safety and give them tools to leave dangerous situations. Protective Orders are to discourage batterers from continuing behaviors that got them into trouble and allow victims a tool to enforce their personal safety.

dorothy2, That probably doesn’t answer your exact question, but in Texas, it is supposed to happen this way.


In the county I was living in with the NPD, DV calls will put BOTH ppl in jail. They arrest both. Hey, no figuring out who’s right, eh? How’s that for discouraging ppl to call when they’re getting beat??? And that’s another reason why the policy is in place. So when you’re getting beat and you have children, guess what, now your kids are going to fostercare too.
When the NPD stole my laptop, without which I COULD NOT WORK my current job and earn money, I made sure to emphasize he was not hitting me and I was not afraid. It was a simple theft and I needed my laptop by the morning for work. He’d taken it 2 days b4 when I said I was leaving. I knew it was somewhere in the house or at a friend’s. I still was scared shitless till they got there as, if he decided to say something stupid like she hit me, we would go to jail and my children would be in fostercare. He’s well aware of the both get arrested BS tho, so he didn’t say anything.
I think it’s INSANE to have this policy of both get arrested. I know Im not the only one with no backup sitters/family members who could come and get the kids if I was tossed in jail, even overnight. I don’t even really care about going to jail myself, wrong as it is, it’s the kids being taken that chills me to my bones.


aintgonnatakeitnomore I cannot speak to police policies in your state.

You need to get in touch with a Battered Women’s Program in your area or go online/call to The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 for guidance in getting help. They should be able to help sort this out. Police policies should be set up to protect the public. Discouraging victims from reporting crimes is not helpful in eliminating domestic violence. If they receive federal monies from the Violence Against Woman Act or VAWA, they would be accountable for policies in place which discourage the reporting of violence against women.

Please know that you have the right to be safe in your own home. If you are afraid for yourself and your children there is help. Call or go online. Please be safe.


I know of a case where the husband called the police in a nonphysical fight to scare his wife who was a former victim of abuse and innocent of anything except breaking a dish. She spent the weekend in jail because the police had to arrest one of them. Both were devastated and it ended in divorce. The police cannot tell the aggressor from the victim and it enjoy putting or they like to put the blame on the woman.


Delores – Honestly, I wish it were perfect world and no one would ever be wrongly arrested. Police walk a fine line between hero and villain every day in getting through most of their days… Domestic Violence makes their job so much harder. Batterers and Victims do not wear labels. Both victims and batterers manipulate the system. False reports are common.

Batterers are bad enough, Sociopath Batterers make life hell. I’ve worked with a male victim who has had to spend thousands in court fighting for his children because his sociopath batterer elicited sympathy with responding police with her charm and got her victim placed on a 5150 hold after an argument which she started. Now he has a 5150 on his record and a judge who doesn’t seem to be able to compel this batterer to complete a psychiatric evaluation because of her ability to manipulate people with her obvious handicap. It isn’t fair or right that judgements will be made based on information contained in his psych evaluation without the same level of information on her.

It will never be a perfect world. If it were, sociopaths would not exist. Police get training but they are human too. I’ve had police officers ask me what I had done to elicit beatings from my husband? I’m not kidding. I can only assume that they were raised in similar homes. They need more training than they get – allot more. They also get jaded. They get called to the same house 20 times in a year. Wanna guess how many reports were filed on those specific 20 calls? The answer was ZERO. They get called to a residence on a report alleging DV by a neighbor. They arrive at the residence and find nothing amiss and no one wanting to make a complaint so they leave. They get a call later to the same residence on another neighbor call. They find someone dead. Could they have prevented it… maybe?

The fact of the matter is police can only do so much.

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