Years ago when I was living in Boulder, Colorado, I volunteered as a legal advocate with the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) and learned about catastrophic cases of domestic violence. As part of my training to become a legal advocate, I became familiar with the federal and state-specific legislation covering domestic violence. Colorado is one of 22 states that apply mandatory or preferred arrest in cases of domestic violence. When they enacted the mandatory arrest law in 1994, legislation fostered by the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), policymakers had the best of intentions to protect former and potential victims from repeated intimate partner violence.
Mandatory arrest laws were enacted to protect women from experiences like that of Tracey Thurman, a Connecticut woman who was left for dead in the driveway by her husband who had beaten and stabbed her multiple times in 1984. Against all odds, Tracey not only survived her husband’s attack, but successfully sued the City of Torrington, Connecticut for failing to protect her after she had repeatedly reported her husband’s violent episodes to authorities. Unsurprisingly, after Thurman’s case, domestic violence advocates nationwide pushed legislators to pass mandatory and pro-arrest laws that transfer the decision to press charges from women to law enforcement officers.
However, empirical evidence in the last decade has caused some researchers and practitioners to raise their eyebrows. Continue reading “Where is The Middle Ground between Mandatory and Discretionary Domestic Violence Legislation?”