In December, 2015, the US Department of Justice (DoJ), issued new guidelines to to help law enforcement agencies (LEAs) prevent gender bias in their response to sexual assault and domestic violence. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), the Civil Rights Division and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) collaborated to produce the guidance.
I set out to review this report admittedly for evidence (or lack of evidence) of purposeful exclusion of male victims. Despite the obvious confirmation bias hindering my efforts, I set out to read this article, out of interest if nothing else.
First of all, the violence against women act (VAWA) thinly covers itself by repeatedly claiming to be gender neutral.
“Although VAWA refers to women in its title, the statute makes clear that the protections are for all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation”
Secondly, the DoJ does a bang up job in keeping all its recommendations gender neutral, taking care to throw in ‘marginalized’ groups here and there.
Once again acknowledging my confirmation bias, the worst I was going to find while reading through this report was a lack of acknowledgement of the fact that male victims at the hands of female perpetrators of domestic violence make up a significant minority; after all, this would be expected in the feminist age we are living in.
“This document, alongside the [DoJ]’s other work in this area—including the provision of funding and technical assistance to LEAs—is meant to provide guidance to agencies as they develop more effective policies, practices and trainings.”
The background section opens with “Sexual assault and domestic violence are crimes that disproportionately impact women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the United States.” So immediately I know what I’m in for. But I keep my confirmation bias pet locked away and read on with an open mind. The report then goes on to explain how “Explicit and implicit biases, including stereotypes about gender roles, sexual assault, and domestic violence, are embedded in our culture and can affect people in all different professions.” With some trepidation, I come across the following sentence in the same section: “Reducing female intimate partner homicides also reduces collateral homicides of children, other family members, and responding law enforcement officers, while also reducing abuser suicides.”
The main objective of the report is to set out eight principles which aim to reduce gender discrimination in policing responses to sexual assault and domestic violence (at this juncture, I start to wonder if the ‘suggestions’, ‘recommendations’ and ‘encouragements’ put forth in this report can have the same impact as the now infamous ‘Dear Colleague’ letter put out by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in 2011 with regards to rape on campus).
The eight principles are as follows:
Principle 1 Recognize and Address Biases, Assumptions and Stereotypes about Victims
Principle 2 Treat All Victims with Respect and Employ Interviewing Tactics That Encourage a Victim to Participate and Provide Facts About the Incident
Principle 3 Investigate Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence Complaints Thoroughly and Effectively
Principle 4 Appropriately Classify Reports of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence
Principle 5 Refer Victims to Appropriate Services
Principle 6 Properly Identify the Assailant in Domestic Violence Incidents
Princple 7 (sic) Hold Officers Who Commit Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence Accountable
Prinicple 8 (sic) Main, Review and Act Upon Data Regarding Sexual Assault and Domestice (sic) Violence
Each principle (apart from principles 7 and 8) includes a detailed example describing what NOT to do with regards to this particular potential for gender discrimination when addressing sexual assault and domestic violence. For instance, principle 1 (Recognize and Address Biases, Assumptions and Stereotypes about Victims) includes an example of a woman reporting that she had been raped two weeks earlier and she had been drinking the night of the incident. The police officer on duty asks how often the woman drinks excessively at house parties and asks her what she was wearing that night.
Principle 2 (Treat All Victims with Respect and Employ Interviewing Tactics That Encourage a Victim to Participate and Provide Facts About the Incident) includes the following example: “A woman reports to the police that she was raped several months ago while attending a party. The law enforcement officer on duty takes a cursory report and gives the file to an investigator, who says to the woman: ‘I’m sorry but you are reporting an incident that occurred several months ago. There is nothing we can do at this point.’ ‘Is the reason you waited so long to report this rape because you now regret having sex?’ ‘How can you remember any details given how much you had to drink?’ “What did you think was going to happen after you went to his room alone?’ ‘Why didn’t you push him off you and leave?’”
I’m sure you are now starting to get the drift. This pattern of female victimization and male perpetrations carries on without fail from principles 1 through principle 5. The only examples of male victimization are gay men at the hands of other men. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if these examples were grudgingly included.
So this high-level government document goes out of its way to give examples of negative ways to handle to sexual assault and domestic violence, taking extra care to make sure men are always the perpetrator. A list of seemingly benevolent principles for improving the handling of sexual assault and DV cases are stealthily reframed to promote a narrative of a male aggressor using examples only. It is so well done that I began to worry if any evidence of misandry that I perceived would only spring from my antifeminist confirmation bias.
Then I came across principle 6: ‘Properly Identify the Assailant in Domestic Violence Incidents’;
Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are advised to notice that a perpetrator may sometimes pre-emptively make an accusation of domestic violence to hide their own aggression.
This was the one principle that included an example of a man reporting an assault.
Without even pondering the sheer hopelessness that this report warrants in male victims of domestic violence of sexual assault, or the fact that the authors forgot how to spell ‘principle’ after principle 6, I was flabbergasted.
Furthermore, principle 6 ‘in practice’ recommends that LEAs should consider the following factors in this scenario;
1) A documented or undocumented history of domestic violence;
2) Whether a party to the incident may have a motivation to be untruthful;
3) Whether someone may have been injured as a result of the other person engaging in self-defense;
To be clear, the authors have gone out of their way to imply that when a man who may be a victim of domestic violence makes the report, this is the only time when the validity of an accuser’s declaration should be questioned.
Using examples only, the implication from princples 1-5 is crystal clear, that a woman making an accusation should under no circumstances be questioned or scrutinized in anyway, but when a MAN (who is less likely to report domestic abuse from a female partner in the first place) is making the accusation, then the officers must consider ‘whether a party to the incident may have motivation to be untruthful’! (using the examples only of course – The principles are gender neutral don’t you know).
This goes past wilful ignorance of male victims (which I expected). No; this is a deliberate dehumanization of those victims. This is clear evidence of an elaborate, targeted and conscious campaign, from the highest level of government, to dehumanize not just men as a demographic, but male victims suffering from humiliating, isolating and often fatal physical, emotional and psychological violence.
To unashamedly backtrack on the core tenets of principles 1-5, just to take some time to purposely and pre-emptively demonize potential male victims with an unsubtle example, it is an unquestionable fact that we are dealing with a state-sponsored hate movement.
The Kafka-esque nature of this social psychological mass manipulation, thinly masking a painfully obvious contempt for men is overwhelming to me. So I leave you now to read principle 6 from the Department of Justice’s guidance for law enforcement agencies response to sexual assault and domestic violence.
Principle 6 Properly Identify the Assailant in Domestic Violence Incidents
It is essential that officers are trained to identify the predominant aggressor when responding to domestic violence incidents, and make arrests accordingly. Law enforcement officials should be aware of the potential for abusers to report domestic violence complaints pre-emptively, claiming that they themselves are the victims of domestic violence. The following example illustrates a failure to pursue information that would help identify the predominant aggressor:
Example: An adult male calls 911 to report that his girlfriend assaulted him. When a police officer arrives, he sees the male caller with a deep scratch on his face. The female, while visibly shaken, appears to be physically unharmed, although she claims that her boyfriend tried to strangle her. Without further inquiry, the police officer files a report, citing the female as the predominant aggressor, and arrests her.
Principle in Practice
Law enforcement agencies should review and revise their policies and procedures as necessary, and provide specialized training to ensure that officers are capable of properly identifying the predominant aggressor. Specifically, officers should be trained to consider and balance the following factors, among others, to determine whose account is corroborated by the evidence, but without relying on any one of these factors alone as determinative:
• A documented or undocumented history of domestic violence;
• Whether a party to the incident may have a motivation to be untruthful;
• Whether someone may have been injured as a result of the other person engaging in self-defense;
• The existence of past or present protective orders;
• Criminal histories involving violence to others.
There may be instances where law enforcement officers respond to reports of sexual assault or domestic violence and find that they are unable to communicate with both parties. This may be because one party does not speak or understand English proficiently, or because one party has a hearing or speech disability. In these circumstances, officers should ensure that they are able to adequately communicate with both parties before determining the predominant aggressor.
Law enforcement agencies also should discourage dual arrests in domestic violence cases, wherever feasible as well as issue policies that delineate the limited circumstances under which dual arrests are permissible. Arresting the wrong party or both parties increases the likelihood that the offender will act again, and discourages the victim from reporting future incidents. Further, dual arrests often result in children being taken into the custody of child protective services and may diminish children’s trust in law enforcement.
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