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Imperatives of Arrest or Non-Arrest for Assaultive Language in Domestic Violence Cases: An Empirical Study of Responding Police Officers
AdvisorMarsh, Shawn C.
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Victims in domestic violence cases widely report being traumatized by verbal abuse, along with the physical attack. When the verbal abuse intensifies legally to an assault (generally describable as placing a victim in fear of immediate physical attack), arrest for the assault, either alone or in combination with the physical battery, seems rarely to occur. This qualitative study based on in-depth interviews of 15 police officers experienced in domestic violence cases, utilizing a survey instrument, in three Northern Nevada police departments explores why arrest for misdemeanor assault does not occur although authorized under Nevada’s domestic violence statute. The data was subjected to content analysis, based on major themes revealed, utilizing a grounded approach. The literature has treated verbal abuse in domestic violence cases extensively, although not comprehensively, but no explicit treatment of arrest or non-arrest for assault has been found in the literature. Key findings are that: (1) no systematic evaluation of an arrest policy for assaultive domestic violence has ever existed in these departments for reasons deemed justifiable by them; (2) arrest for such assaults has never been made in these departments although authorized by law; (3) officers would prefer to make such arrests where sustainable and authorized; and (4) assault occurs in a substantial majority of domestic violence cases; and (5) methods exist to overcome evidentiary obstacles to arrest in such cases. Imperative changes in police policy, protocol, procedure, training and culture regarding the arrest or non-arrest of defendants for verbal assault in domestic violence cases, and the resulting impacts on victims, were indicated as a result of the findings and analysis.