There is a widely miss-cited, miss-used statistic that states 40% of police officers domestically abuse their spouses.
In truth, the study states that domestic violence is experienced in 40% of police officer families, meaning that the abuser is not specified to be the police officer and the victim is not specified to the be spouse. In this study, violence is not defined and is therefore left to the interpretation of surveyed police officers (Johnson, 1991). Another study suggests that 28% of police officers admit to committing minor violence (punching, grabbing, shoving, slapping, kicking, biting) or severe violence (choking/strangling, beating, threatening with a knife/gun, or using a knife/gun) against their spouses, and 33% of police officer report experiencing minor or severe partner violence from their spouse (Niedig et al, 1992).
Regardless of where that true number lies, somewhere between 28%-40%, it is high enough to take away an important message: if you are a victim of police domestic violence, you are not alone.
So, who do you call when the police are the people you need protection from?
Recognizing the Cycle of Abuse
If you’re here, in this blog, you may already know that this is a relationship that you need to leave. Abuse is never a one-time occurrence, and tends to escalate. Abusive relationships often occur in a cycle:
1. The Tension Building Phase
This is the phase where a victim will feel like they are walking on eggshells, and concerned that if everything isn’t perfect, something bad will happen. In this phase, an abuser’s agitation can be felt throughout the entire home.
2. The Violent Phase
Alternatively, this is sometimes referred to as the Crisis Phase. In the Violent/Crisis phase, the abuser blows up, destroys things, makes threats, and is when physical abuse is most likely to occur. In this phase, an abuser will often abuse drugs or alcohol, and make his/her victims fear for their safety and wellbeing.
3. The Remorseful/Honeymoon Phase
This phase is exactly what it sounds like: “I love you,” and “I’m so sorry, that will never happen again!” In this phase, an abuser will “love bomb” their victim to try and win them over again. When an abuser love bombs someone, they often buy extravagant gifts, want to constantly take the victim out to dinner dates, and tell them sweet nothings of adoration and affection.
Eventually, the cycle starts again, and victims find themselves terrified of upsetting their significant other/abuser. We specifically wanted to point this out because it doesn’t just end, and there will be a next time. Unfortunately, this cycle tends to escalate.
Reporting Abusive Police Officers
In a previous post, we explained that filing a police report is helpful because it begins the paper trail and allows courts to issue a protective order (also known as a restraining order). You may be asking, “So what can I do if I can’t go to the police?”
While this should go without saying, your first priority should be to ensure your safety, and the safety of your children (if applicable). Then, once you are out of the reach of your abuser, you can contact one of the many resources for filing a charge against your abuser.
Many victims feel better speaking with a victim advocate who is associated with the police department, but not employed by the department. If you are not comfortable going directly to the police and asking for their victim advocate, many of the resources in our resource list, such as Alternatives to Violence, have victim advocates that you can work with to being the legal process. Besides our resource list, many shelters, crisis centers, and hospitals also have a victim advocate program.
Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, meaning that the police must arrest anyone they have probably cause to believe committed domestic violence. If you’ve watched the news, there are recent cases of Fort Collins police being arrested for domestic violence, because domestic violence should never be tolerated, regardless of who commits it.
Friendly Reminder, Colorado is a no-Fault Divorce State
Many victims want to take legal action against their abuser, and that is completely understandable, but there are also some victims who just want to get out of the marriage/relationship, and that is okay too. In Colorado, you can divorce without accusing your spouse of damaging the relationship, and without taking legal action against them, if you believe that is the right decision for you. Even if your soon-to-be-ex is uncooperative with signing papers, you can still divorce them without their cooperation.
We understand that this is an incredibly difficult situation to be in, and we encourage victims to take the necessary actions to protect themselves. When you are ready to discuss divorce, Alexander and Associates is ready for you call.
Johnson, L.B. (1991). On the front lines: Police stress and family well-being. Hearing before the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families House of Representatives: 102 Congress First Session May 20 (p. 32-48). Washington DC: US Government Printing Office.
Neidig, P.H., Russell, H.E. & Seng, A.F. (1992). Interspousal aggression in law enforcement families: A preliminary investigation. Police Studies, Vol. 15 (1), p. 30-38.