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One might think that being married to a police officer would bring with it a constant sense of security and, oftentimes, this is probably true. But for a staggering 24-40 percent of police officer families — the number who experience domestic violence — they can be anything but safer.
According to the National Center for Women and Policing, domestic violence is 2 to 4 times more common among police officers than the general public. And the victims of these police officer batterers are even more vulnerable because of the position of power their abusers hold.
Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center, the largest nonprofit provider of domestic violence support services in Wisconsin, says she and other advocates are particularly concerned about cases where police officers are found to be the abusers for several reasons. “They can legally carry a firearm. They can use their power to actively harass and isolate victims. They can influence other officers in how they report and investigate. Officers who abuse use what they have. We consider these critical cases.”
Additionally, officers will often know the locations of women’s shelters. They’ll also know how to manipulate the system and blame the victim to avoid being charged. For these reasons, many abuse survivors married to police officers are scared to come forward. “The abuser may say to you, ‘I control everything. I can get the system to not respond to you.’ But 99 percent of the officers don’t subscribe to that,” says Pitre. “Officers mostly have great intentions and want to help.”
Things you can do if your batterer is a police officer:
- Confide in an advocate at a domestic violence organization. “We can help you get out of the situation,” says Pitre. To find resources near you, conduct a search on this site.
- Keep a log regarding everything that’s happening related to the abuse. Document each incident with photos. Print out the photos and save them in a safe deposit box that your abuser doesn’t know about.
- In that safe deposit box, also keep paperwork you’ll need once you leave the abuser, which he or she may try to destroy when you leave. This includes your passport, children’s birth certificates, insurance papers, car registration and any money you can set aside.
- Keep hard copies of all communication from your abuser including emails, notes or recordings of phone messages that contain threats or show anger.
- Make friends and contacts outside of the law enforcement community so you can have a support system that’s not connected to your abuser.
Many of these steps are the same, regardless of the abuser's profession. This archive of articles on escaping violence will help you plan your next steps.
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