Does Mandatory Arrest Reduce Calls for Help in Domestic Abuse Cases?

In 22 states, police officers are required to make an arrest when they are called into domestic abuse situations. While the mandatory arrest law was designed as a way to curb domestic violence, new research suggests that the law may be intimidating victims from actually calling the police at all.

The study, conducted by sociologists Drs. Robert Peralta at the University of Akron and Meghan Novisky of Kent State University, evaluated survey responses of 101 women receiving care in domestic violence shelters.

The researchers looked at how victim perceptions of mandatory arrest policies, perpetrator substance use, and presence of children are related to decisions to call law enforcement.

The findings showed that as victim support for mandatory arrest increases, the odds of law enforcement notification of the abuse also increase. But accordingly, mandatory arrest may simply be reducing the probability of reporting intimate partner violence (IPV) among those who do not support the policy.

“A reason a woman may not report abuse because of mandatory arrest policies is that they fear retaliation by the abuser may be worse because an arrest is mandatory,” said Novisky.

Another reason is that women may fear that the police will mistakenly arrest her as the aggressor, so she won’t report it. In fact, data shows that mandatory arrest policies result in higher arrest rates of battered women, which could deprive them of the support they need.

While their study focused only on three factors, Peralta said that “it is important to note that race, ethnicity, sexuality, and social class background may also shape or inform decisions to contact the police.”

Based on their findings regarding mandatory arrest, he said, “Variations in experiences and attitudes toward police should also be considered in the development and implementation of policy decisions that will have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of members of our community.”

The researchers conclude their study with a warning that mandatory arrest policies may be making women feel that the costs of reporting are too high for the consideration of involving law enforcement. “The utility of mandatory arrest for the long-term assistance of victims of IPV must be questioned,” they write.

The study is published in the journal Violence Against Women.

Source: University of Akron