Protecting the Public, but not their Partners

by rwalc1 on November 4, 2013 - 8:20pm

                Valentine, Oehme, and Martin (2012) conducted a study looking into the relationship between domestic violence and law enforcement fields while at the same time observing a growing problem in the United States.  In particular, they looked at correctional officers in Florida.  First, they illustrated that police officers, correctional officers, and other law enforcement officers all have training in ways to apprehend people and use weapons, often in ways that do not leave visible marks (Ammons 2005; Lott 2005).  This, paired with a stressful work environment, makes law enforcement officers likely candidates for domestic violence.   The study found that 49% of the approximately 700 officers surveyed thought that domestic violence would be more common in criminal justice families.  33.7% of officers knew at least one officer who committed an unreported act of domestic violence and 27.2% of officers knew of an unreported victim of domestic violence in the correctional field.  An especially significant statistic was that 26% of officers overall reported that there have been instances of domestic violence in some form in their homes, which is well above the national average of 10%.  This is an alarming number of abuses within these homes.  Finally, to specify the abuses, 32.2% of officers admitted to using verbal abuse of a spouse and 11.4% admitted to physical abuse of a spouse (Valentine, Oehme, & Martin, 2012).

                Having come from a correctional officer’s family, though luckily never having witnessed domestic violence, I can attest to the stress of my father’s career.  I have heard stories of prescription drug addiction and injuries to his co-workers.  This is added to dangerous inmate behavior and having to prevent and resuscitate inmates who wish to commit suicide.  There is also a large in-group mentality among officers and most will not report their comrades for what they hear because it is their job to protect each other.  My father once said that it is hard for correctional officers to separate how they act at work with how they act at home and this is probably evident by the stats provided by this study.  But, other factors are involved in this study.  30% of officers overall reported seeing domestic violence as a child.  In addition 74% of the officers who actually reported committing an act of abuse saw it as a child (Valentine, Oehme, & Martin, 2012).  All in all, domestic violence among correctional officers seems to be a blatant problem.  If we fail to accept this research seriously, the implication is that domestic violence among correctional officers will persist.  We already see that the rate is 16% higher than the national average and the underlying fact is that much of the violence is going unreported.  In my opinion, more training needs to be offered to these officers in how to deal with their work stress or past environments.  Also, I believe that these officers need to have the job protection to have the freedom to search for help.  If the officers are too afraid of losing their jobs because of their spousal abuse they probably won’t look for help in managing themselves.  If this is done, perhaps the social problem of spousal abuse in this specific occupational sphere will be relaxed.



Valentine, C., Oehme, K., & Martin, A. (2012). Correctional officers and domestic violence: Experience and attitudes.  Journal of Family Violence 27(6): 531-545.

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