Advocates often cite fear, shame and stigma as reasons some domestic violence victims hesitate to report their abuse. Turns out those pressures may be even stronger among families with a member working in law enforcement.
Two studies cited by the National Center for Women and Policing (NCWP), at least 40 percent of law enforcement families experience domestic violence. That’s four times as high an incidence than in families in the general population.
Victims of a police officer are particularly vulnerable because their offender has a gun, knows the location of women’s shelters and “knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim, according to the NCWP. The organization also notes a failure of police department policies and a history of “exceedingly light discipline.”
Family violence by law enforcement is especially heinous because of its misuse of power. When cops refuse to police themselves, it’s the worst example of the Thin Blue Line.
Retired Capt. Donna Roman Hernandez, who served 29 years in law enforcement in New Jersey, bravely shares her abuse at the hands her police officer father on the website corrections.com.
“My fear was that if I disclosed the abuse to my police department, would they question how I could I protect others if I could not protect myself?” Hernandez writes. “Throughout my law enforcement career I never disclosed the abuse. I suffered in silence and hid my bruises and scars underneath my police uniform, guarded my family’s secret and internalized the guilt and shame of the abuse. Ironically, I arrested domestic violence offenders for the same acts of violence I allowed my father to perpetrate upon me.”
She shares a harrowing account of finally standing up to her father after he abused her and her mother for years. Her experience, she writes, “speaks to the global widespread epidemics of child abuse and domestic violence that affect women and men from all socioeconomic groups, races, cultures, religions and professions, including law enforcement.”
She concludes with a core philosophy of Big Mountain Data: All domestic violence offenders must be held accountable – even if the abuser is a cop.