Ignoring the Victim


More on unintended consequences in the NYT: it turns out that state mandatory arrest laws—whereby a police officer turning up to the scene of domestic violence must arrest someone—discourage victims from reporting crimes. States with mandatory arrest laws on average have intimate partner murder rates 50% higher than states without them:

The mandatory arrest laws were intended to impose a cost on abusers. But because of psychological, emotional and financial ties that often keep victims loyal to their abusers, the cost of arrest is easily transferred from abusers to victims. Victims want protection, but they do not always want to see their partners put behind bars.

In some cases, victims may favor an arrest, but fear that their abusers will be quickly released. And many victims may avoid calling the police for fear that they, too, will be arrested for physically defending themselves. The possibility of such "dual arrests" is most worrisome for victims who have children at home.

The problem with a law like this is that it regards all individual victims of domestic violence as a collective underclass that needs to be forcibly "saved" in any way the state deems fit. Undoubtedly resources and information should be available to victims, but blanket rules like this treat them as voiceless prey rather than human beings with their own priorities and knowledge of the situation. Any law that fails to take the victim's wishes into account when dealing with a risk that affects them is bound to run into problems.

Via IWF blog Inkwell.