Domestic violence produces all kinds of intractable problems. Survivors of domestic abuse might be paralyzed with fear, unsure of how to handle the situation. Calling the cops is often the first response in such circumstances, but for many people this can cause more problems than it solves.
This is especially true for marginalized populations, including women of color, trans folks, impoverished people, lesbians, immigrant women, differently abled women and other oppressed populations. INCITE! Critical Resistance, a grassroots organization that seeks to end violence against women of color, proposes community-organized approaches to issues of violence, supplanting the impulse to call 911.
Studies Regarding Mandatory Arrests
In certain states and municipalities, there are mandatory arrest policies for domestic abuse situations. According to INCITE’s website, mandatory arrests actually help batterers more than they protect survivors – a claim that is supported by at least one study, which found that mandatory arrests tend to increase recidivism of intimate partner violence.
A study conducted in 2014 – by Lawrence W. Sherman, who published the research behind the original mandatory arrest policies in the 1980s – found that survivors were more likely to die prematurely if their partner was arrested than if he or she was given a warning. According to the study, “Partner arrests for domestic common assault apparently increased premature death for their victims, especially African-Americans.” Sherman hypothesized: “[T]he most likely explanation for this difference is that it was caused by physiological processes that may have been generated by their seeing their partners arrested.”
Knowing the Basics
However, many people feel the need to call the cops because they feel powerless otherwise, and this is completely understandable. It is thus important to understand some of the fundamental aspects of reporting domestic abuse – specifically when reports should be initiated. For starters, it’s important to note the following: it is a common misconception that survivors decide whether to press charges. This responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the prosecutor.
Statute of Limitations
For charges to be filed, the incident must be reported within a certain period of time. The statute of limitations for domestic abuse cases varies depending on your jurisdiction. So it’s important to know the laws in your particular area. Relatedly, the statute of limitations tends to be longer for more serious crimes. In most jurisdictions, there are no limitations on murder, and states are beginning to entertain the possibility of throwing out such limitations in domestic violence cases.
The same holds true in civil cases. Each state has its own rules when it comes to filing civil claims against a domestic abuser. In California, for instance, you have two years to report domestic violence. In Florida, by contrast, you have four years. Again, these timelines can extend for more serious claims.
Most states have some sort of mandatory reporter requirement. This applies to certain professionals. If, say, nurses, doctors, teachers and other care providers, fail to report domestic abuse, they could be criminally punished by the state. Different jurisdictions have different rules in this regard.
Generally speaking, mandatory reporting statutes require (medical and other types of) professionals to submit reports when they have a reasonable suspicion that a child or partner is being abused in the home.
In California, mandatory reporting applies solely to medical practitioners – or professionals in charge of physical treatment – and excludes clinical psychologists. Lawmakers wanted to give abuse survivors the option to seek mental health advice without having to worry about police intervention.
Two states – New Jersey and Wyoming – have broad statutes in place requiring every single person in the state to report domestic abuse if it occurs.
In short, there are no steadfast timelines when it comes to reporting domestic abuse and there are different requirements when it comes to mandatory reporting, so it’s a good rule of thumb to seek out help as soon as you are safe to do so. If you have a support network, it is advisable to seek refuge amongst them, if you no longer feel safe in your own home. For help with divorce for child custody, talk to an experienced family lawyer.