Domestic Violence: The "Enigma Call"

By Baker, Thomas E.; Piland-Baker, Jane | Law & Order, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence: The "Enigma Call"


Baker, Thomas E., Piland-Baker, Jane, Law & Order


Women are commonly the victims of domestic crimes; however, they are also capable of victimizing men.

When women play the victim of abuse role, it may be difficult to determine the facts in a preliminary investigation. The reason for the enigma is often the officer's inability to decode clues and psychological messages. Mental disorders contribute to domestic abuse and violence. This article may assist in decoding the psychological and emotional messages that help provide appropriate interventions and referrals.

Generally, repeat calls for service span across several shifts with various officers responding to the same address. Therefore, part of the mystery remains isolated and separated with each officer only retaining a part of the puzzle. The enigma is solvable when a pattern emerges and parts of the puzzle fit together.

Criminal analysis and psychological profiling can help solve the puzzle and assist patrol officers. Armed with this information members of the domestic crisis intervention teams can implement field strategies.

The literature on domestic abuse is extensive about male violence and stalking. However, very little is written on the role of women and how they may influence the domestic violence cycle. Unfortunately, the lack of data and police training concerning female domestic violence may create barriers to unraveling the enigma call. Police officers taking the enigmatic call may walk away mystified and feeling something is out of place. Adding to the problem, the husband may deny abuse.

Firmly established in the minds of most officers is the image of the battered wife. But growing research indicates that men are about as likely as women to suffer from relationship violence. More often, the real problem is non-violent abuse; therefore, it is more difficult to recognize.

According to the 1998 Department of Justice Report on the National Violence Against Women Survey, 36% of the victims of domestic violence are men. In addition, in 1995, the Michigan State Police reported men were 46% of the murder victims. The statistics help break the myth that women are, not capable of domestic violence.

The paradox is that many studies demonstrate that wives and girlfriends assault, seriously injure and kill men. The fact that men are larger and stronger is not significant, especially when a woman's weapon of choice is a gun, or death by poison.

Women can be just as violent as men, they simply do not fit the cultural stereotype and media image. According to researchers Sniechowski and Sherven, domestic violence is a two-way street. When you examine the dark side of abuse by women the statistics are revealing. Women are involved in 41 % of the spousal murders and 33 % of the family murders.

The media occasionally spotlights celebrity cases. One well known comedian never discussed his marital problems, however, he joked that he had to leave his house when his wife was angry. Her alcohol and drug problems were ongoing issues before and after the marriage. The comic had a sad home life although he told everyone he was happy. He maintained his denial up until the last few seconds of his life. His wife shot him and then turned the gun on herself and committed suicide. Their children were left without parents.

Women Who Abuse

Men and women who have an abusive personality present a similar modus operandi. For example, one nationally known case provoked a great deal of sympathy for a wealthy divorcee who successfully posed as a victim. She received a deal of sympathy from women because her husband divorced her for a younger woman. However, the basis for the divorce was her emotional instability and abusive personality. Court proceedings established the proof of her instability and rage. In a second trial, she was found guilty of breaking into her former husband's home and shooting her former husband and his new wife six times.

A woman claiming to be the abused victim in the relationship may even appear at a battered woman's shelter to add to the believability and create a paper trail. …

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