900 respondents named the following central concerns regarding how police responded to domestic violence and sexual assault and additional reasons that some survivors do not contact the police or cooperate with criminal interventions:
Police inaction,hostility, and dismissiveness
An overwhelming majority of the survey respondents (88%) reported that police “sometimes” or “often” do not believe survivors or blamed survivors for the violence. A similarly large majority (83%) reported that police “sometimes” or “often” do not take allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence seriously.
Respondents described examples where law enforcement increased the risk of a batterer’s retaliation by, for example, taking no action or by dismissing the claims.
A majority (55%) of respondents said that police bias against particular groups of people or with regard to domestic violence and sexual assault was a problem in their community. Over 80% believed that police-community relations with marginalized communities influenced survivors’ willingness to call the police. A significant number of respondents raised concerns about police bias against women as a group, as well as gender/race/ethnicity/religion bias against African-American women, Latinas, Native American women, Muslim women, and women of other ethnic backgrounds.
Fifty-four percent (54%) reported that police are biased against immigrants “sometimes” or “often”; sixty
-nine percent (69%) reported bias “sometimes” or “often” against women; fifty-eight (58%) reported bias “sometimes” or “often” against LGBTQ-identified individuals; and sixty-six (66%) reported bias sometimes or often against poor people. Significant numbers of respondents also reported police bias against African-Americans, Native Americans, youth survivors, and survivors with mental health or drug abuse problems.
A number of responses point to survivors’ beliefs that their interests and goals are at odds with those of
the criminal justice system or that the criminal process would have deleterious effects on their wellbeing. Three themes emerged in responses of this kind: (1) survivors were looking for options other than punishment for the abuser, options that were not necessarily focused on separation from the abuser; (2) survivors feared that once they were involved in the criminal justice system, they would lose control of the process; and (3) survivors were reluctant to engage the system because they believed that it was complicated, lengthy, and would cause them to suffer more trauma.