Police and Domestic Violence: When the Offender and Protector are the Same Person
Domestic violence is a crime that terrorizes victims and their families every single day. It can be emotional taunting and dehumanizing; physical abuse like hitting, kicking, choking, and biting; sexual violence; financial controlling; threats and harming of pets; and more. So when victims of this kind of abuse seek protection from law enforcement, they are hoping to find solace and safety. But what if their abuser is a member of law enforcement?
Of course it happens in real life—victims of abuse suffer at the hands of their law enforcement spouses or lovers. A study by the University of South Florida reports that the rate of domestic violence perpetrated by police officers (28 percent) exceeds that of the rate in the general population (16 percent). Other studies put the number much higher. Some report that domestic violence in families of law enforcement officers is double to quadruple the rate of that in the general population. While tracking the numbers with precision can be difficult, what remains clear is the fact that family violence is a real and substantial problem in the law-enforcement community.
Case in Point
Domestic violence rocked the home of Miramar Officer Orlando Marrero, leading to his arrest in Miami. According to the victim, a verbal argument escalated to her throwing a computer mouse and breaking it, which led to an enraged Marrero seizing her by the throat. When the victim exited the couple’s home, Marrero physically stopped her, leading her to yell, “Let me go!” That is when a witness who was driving by stopped his car and stepped up to separate the couple, then called police. Marrero was charged with domestic battery by strangulation.
Officers Who Abuse
It’s possible that many people feel extra safe when they date or marry a member of law enforcement. After all, protection is the name of the game for police, right? And while in many situations that may be precisely right, sometimes it demonstrably is not. What then?
Certainly, victims in this situation are more vulnerable than ever. Their abuser is a member of a very powerful club. Reporting the abuse may seem out of the question. But victims in these circumstances face considerable peril for multiple reasons:
- Their abusers are legally allowed to carry a gun.
- They have the power to isolate and/or harass their victims.
- They know the law and how to advantage themselves by manipulating the system and/or placing the blame on the victim;
- They are aware of shelter locations;
- Their co-workers may be more likely to sweep allegations of abuse under the rug.
What to Do
Experts suggest developing relationships outside the police community, particularly with a victim’s advocate. Other contacts worth making include with an experienced domestic violence attorney who can advise you of your rights and the pathways to get legal protections. Finally get a safe deposit box and keeping the following items in it:
- Documentation of any abuse that has occurred, including copies of emails or texts, photos, medical records, and contemporary notes;
- Extra money to use if you get the opportunity to leave;
- Birth certificates and passports for yourself and your children;
- Car registration, insurance documents, and other important papers you may need.
Your Legal Advocate
The tough, compassionate Miami domestic violence attorneys at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos know that your safety is Job 1. Contact our office for a confidential consultation today.