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In Dubious Battle: The Politics of Mandatory Arrest and Dominant Aggressor Laws

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A major component in the effort to reduce domestic violence in our communities has been a vigorous criminal justice response, one that holds perpetrators accountable for their actions and helps victims feel safe. In light of research finding higher rates of arrest per calls made to police and a corresponding decline in domestic violence crimes, mandatory arrest and proarrest laws were initially welcomed by advocates. When, however, it was apparent that these same laws led to a large number of dual arrests, and a proportionately greater increase in arrests of women compared to men, advocates started calling for primary aggressor or dominant aggressor laws. These laws, adopted in several states, including California, direct police officers to consider context and abuse history so that victims are not wrongfully arrested. A review of the relevant literature is conducted, as well as an examination of two law enforcement training programs, suggesting that primary aggressor and dominant aggressor laws, although written in genderneutral language, are gender biased (mostly against men), are difficult to properly implement, and may, at times, be counterproductive in reducing domestic violence. Alternatives are then presented for consideration.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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