Intimate Partner Violence Myths in Police Reports: A Directed Content Analysis

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Abstract

Although much has changed in social and criminal justice system responses to intimate partner violence (IPV) since public awareness campaigns began in the 1970s, stigmatization around IPV offense and victimization remains a barrier to victims obtaining available assistance, including those offered by police forces. Unfortunately, stigma is often perpetuated by mythology about the crime, its offenders, its victims, and overarching gender norms. Since IPV cases are managed under the auspices of the criminal justice system, the manner in which the system itself perpetuates IPV myths is worthy of attention. Prior literature suggests that police officers may be vulnerable to this mythology in their decision-making and reporting of IPV calls. This is troubling for IPV victims and offenders alike, since police reports follow them through the criminal justice system and associated IPV intervention programs. A report heavily influenced by IPV mythology is unlikely to serve IPV offenders or victims particularly well. Guided by four popular IPV myths identified in Eigenberg et al.'s (2012) study, the purpose of the present qualitative study of IPV in police reports (N = 58) is to explore the influence of IPV mythology on police officers' decision-making and intervention. One overarching theme emerged after the analysis: undetected coercive control evident in the cases. Implications on improvement in police training are suggested.

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