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Paradox of Women Arrested for Domestic Violence: Criminal Justice Professionals and Service Providers Respond

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 7 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2001 Pages: 1339-1376
Susan L. Miller
Date Published
December 2001
38 pages
This article explores the issue of women arrested for domestic violence.
Increasingly, women are being arrested for domestic violence charges as part of dual arrests (when their partner is also arrested) or as a result of their own actions. The article explores the issue by using one State's experience, using interview data from criminal justice professionals and service providers who deal directly with women arrested for domestic violence charges. The article concludes that women's violence is usually different from men's violence. Women are often "acting in response to their partner's violence or re-acting as a result of their relative powerlessness in the relationship." The article observes that, while changes in police arrest practices may be expedient and seemingly gender neutral, unreflective enforcement of pro- and mandatory-arrest statutes promises to result in inappropriate arrests of women. The article suggests that the incorporation of primary aggressor laws that distinguish between preemptive and defensive violence as well as a contextual understanding of the violent relationship would greatly assist in clarifying the proper role of arrest. The article concludes that only when the entire gamut of women's experiences is considered will the ambiguous continuum of victim and offender be better understood. Notes, references