Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Involved With a Police Officer? 5 Domestic Violence Warning Signs From the Police Wife Blog

Abused women face great challenges in getting help, safety and justice. And if you face police officer-involved domestic violence, you probably have even greater problems.

Your abuser may be protected by police colleagues, he knows where women’s shelters are, and his training and access can help him track you down if you leave. What’s more, cops are armed and trained to use physical force.

Prolonged emotional abuse can make a survivor think the violence is her fault. It may be hard to figure out where behaviours cross the line into abuse.

Know the red flags

An abuser may also have good qualities, a difficult past or ongoing hardship that make a survivor confused about what to do.

Below are five key warning signs to help you decide if your partner’s actions are abusive, specially adapted to police officer-involved domestic violence. 

This information is adapted from my book Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, now available in its updated and revised second edition on Amazon. (Click here for the Kindle version and here for paperback.) 

The first edition of Police Wife won the Arlene Book Award of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and was a finalist in four other international book prizes. 

(Although men commit most domestic violence, the advice below also applies to women in same-sex relationships and men abused by women. Some of the tips draw on information on the websites listed at the end of the article.)

1) Abuse can come in many formsPhysical abuse can include pushing, slapping and hitting, throwing things and hurting a pet. You can also be abused in other ways, such as: 

Emotionally (name-calling, controlling behaviour, stalking physically or online, making threats, “gaslighting”*).
Sexually (forcing you to have sex with him or other people, refusing to use contraception).
Financially (denying access to money, ruining your credit, hiding assets).
Legally (filing repeated harassing court actions).
Through children (trying to manipulate them against you, teaching them abusive behaviours, threatening that if you leave he will claim you are a bad mother and seek full custody).
Through pets (violence or threats against an animal to hurt or control you).

People who abuse often engage in a combination of various kinds of behaviours. Or they may start with emotional abuse, then progress to other forms.

* Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser frequently questions a partner’s memory, instincts and perception of reality. The abuser may deny saying things or insist a partner’s recollections are wrong when they aren’t, eventually leading to inability to trust oneself and dependency on the abuser. 

2) People who abuse often share common traitsMost people who abuse share a few common characteristics, according to the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence

They want to jump into the relationship too quickly.
They can be very charming and seem too good to be true.
They frequently put you down and criticize how you look.
They want you to drop hobbies and stop seeing friends and family.
They are highly jealous or controlling.
They blame others for problems and don’t take responsibility.

3) Abuse may involve other red flagsOther red flags can also signal abuse. Does your partner do any of the following?

Call you names and insult you.
Frighten you or lose control.
Deny you access to money, pay or bank accounts.
Pressure you to stop working.
Listen in on your calls or tap your phone.
Check your web browsing history, texts or phone records.
Follow you.
Demand to always know where you are.
Constantly check up on you with phone calls or texts.
Have a history of abusing people or animals or getting into fights on the job.
Blame his exes for the failure of previous relationships.
Use previous children to harass or manipulate an ex (e.g. constantly clashing over visitation, custody or family support; badmouthing the ex to the kids).
Pressure you to use alcohol or drugs or have sex with him or others.
Drive dangerously when you’re in the car.
Intimidate you with guns or other weapons.
Tell you he could have you killed.
Threaten to kill you, himself or others.
Say other cops won’t do anything if you call 911.
Deny it or laugh it off when he hurts you.
Throw or hit things when he’s mad.
Shove, slap, choke, kick, hit or spit at you.

4) Abuse can leave you confusedLong-term abuse can leave you confused and doubting your instincts. Do you do any of the following?

Often second-guess yourself or wonder if you’re crazy.
Have trouble making simple decisions.
Frequently apologize to your partner.
Make excuses for his behaviour or say things like: “He doesn’t mean to hurt me—he just loses control,” “He’s scared me a few times, but he never hurts the children—he’s a great father” or “He’s always sorry afterward.” 

5) Some police spouses face extra challengesIf you are a female police officer and you are being abused, you likely face additional challenges. You may worry about repercussions from other officers or impacts on your career if you report abuse.

On the other hand, depending on your department’s policies, you may be disciplined if you don’t disclose your own abuse. You may distrust outside advocates, leaving you feeling isolated. You may be afraid to put your spouse’s police career at risk with a complaint.

You might have fought back and be worried about being accused yourself. You may also feel shame about being an abuse survivor or excuse some behaviour because it’s not clear if it crosses the line.

Other spouses also face unique challenges, such as:

Those with children—They may fear for their children’s safety as well as their own and, after leaving, sometimes face continued abuse with the children used as pawns, such as arbitrarily exercised visitations or harassing legal actions over custody and family support.
Same-sex intimate partners of a cop—They may have to deal with police homophobia toward them or their partner if they disclose abuse.
Intimate partners of racialized officers—They may be reluctant to expose yet another racialized person to a discriminatory criminal justice system.

For additional advice and references, see my book Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, which includes over 60 pages of tips and resources for survivors of police officer-involved domestic violence (OIDV), friends, family and advocates, plus recommendations for change for police agencies, government officials, the public, journalists and academics. And share the Police Wife blog with your friends.

Websites with more information:
- counsellor Diane Wetendorf’s Abuse of Power website on police domestic violence: tips for survivors
- Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children: Safety Planning for Women Who Are Abused
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Abuse Defined, Warning Signs and Red Flags and What Is Gaslighting?
- Public Health Agency of Canada’s family violence web page: How to Plan for Your Safety
- 2013 PBS investigation into police domestic violence: What to Do If You're a Victim of Abuse
- National Center for Victims of Crime: Lethality Risk Assessment for Domestic Abuse
- WebMD: Signs of Domestic Violence
- International Association of Chiefs of Police: Intimate Partner Violence Response Policy and Training Guidelines
- UK College of Policing: Authorized Professional Practice on Domestic Violence (guidelines for police and non-profit practitioners)

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