Gender Differences in Police Domestic Violence Statistics

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Just as is true for victimization more generally, police reports on domestic violence cover only a small share of all domestic violence. Low-level physical and emotion aggression is common within households. Tens of millions of persons per year in the U.S. are subject to domestic aggression that could be characterized as domestic violence under law.^ ^ About a million persons per year in the U.S. are arrested for domestic violence. About 97% of these arrest incidents do not involve weapons, and 95% of them involve no or minor injury to the victim. Most domestic violence arrest incidents would not otherwise be regarded as serious incidents. Particularly with mandatory arrest laws, domestic violence incidents resulting in arrest are not necessarily the most serious incidents of domestic violence that occur throughout the population. Much severe domestic violence against men isn’t reported to the police. Police reports indicate only domestic violence brought to the attention of the criminal justice system. Most incidents of domestic violence, from very minor to relatively serious, do not come to the attention of the criminal justice system.

Domestic violence brought to the attention of the police involves a relatively low share of men victims. About 25% of the persons whom U.S. police judge to be victims in domestic-violence incidents are men. Many credible scholarly studies of domestic violence indicate that men account for about half of domestic violence victims. High-quality data collected for broad public purposes indicate that men accounted for 42% of victims of serious physical injuries from domestic violence in the U.S. in 2008. Domestic violence experts seeking to maintain gender-stereotyping of domestic violence have tended to minimize or ignore men victims of domestic violence.

The police response to domestic violence has been biased against identifying men as victims of domestic violence. A wildly exaggerated, grotesquely false claim about domestic violence against women has proliferated within criminal justice agencies. Scholarly literature commonly and incorrectly asserts that males account for 15% of domestic violence victims, gender-stereotypes domestic violence, and ignores men victims of domestic violence. Services for men victims of domestic violence are much more scarce and worse quality than services for women victims.

About 75% of persons arrested for domestic violence in the U.S. are men. Arrests for domestic violence occur under a special regime of domestic-violence emergency law. Domestic violence law and policy gender-profiles men for domestic-violence arrests. Upon arrest for domestic violence, the alleged offender is commonly made subject to a restraining order. Violation of a restraining order can involve nothing other than ordinary actions of mundane, personal communication. Restraining orders make ordinary communication criminal offenses. Moreover, violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense for which a conviction is relatively easy to achieve. Justice system action against domestic violence provides an extraordinarily broad path for incarcerating persons. Persons taken down that path are disproportionately men.

Restraining order petitions show an even smaller share of men petitioners than the share of men victims identified in police actions against domestic violence. A restraining order issues initially through perfunctory review of an pre-printed civil petition, filed ex parte. Men file about 15% of restraining order petitions. Assistance in filing petitions for restraining orders is associated with victim services that greatly underserve men victims of domestic violence. That unequal service is consistent with men’s relatively low share of domestic violence petitions.

A variety of state-specific police domestic violence statistics are included along with restraining order data in the state-specific sheets in the state-specific compilation of restraining order and domestic violence data. New Jersey state police crime statistics include data on gender in domestic violence incidents, including arrests. The New Jersey domestic violence police data are available annually from 1983.

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