We all, myself included, encourage battered women to call law enforcement when domestic violence escalates and becomes potentially dangerous. We know that police only respond to physical abuse, so it doesn’t matter how much psychological abuse or coercive control has occurred, law enforcement only wants to assess for physical injuries.

When she does call, what happens? Does she get help? Well, that depends. (Don’t you just hate that expression) Does she have any physical injuries? If so, police are supposed to make an arrest. But what is she has no apparent injuries? What if she was strangled but there are no bruises? (Necks often don’t bruise or the bruises show up later) What if she fought back to protect herself and he got scratched? Uh oh. He is the only one with a visible injury. So guess what happens? She gets arrested.

Now she is in jail, she is separated from her kids, and she gets charged. The District Attorney doesn’t want to appear soft on women charged with domestic violence, so she faces charges. And,what is going on while she is trying to get out on bail? The abuser is off to family court to get custody of the kids. And, he will get it because she is being charged with domestic violence. What better way to show her that she better not ever call the cops again, than to take her children?

So, what have we learned here? That it’s never as simple as it seems when you are the victim of domestic violence. That sometimes calling for help ends up being punishment.

Should we encourage people who are abused to get help? Yes, but…..