Police Response to Latina Immigrant Intimate Partner Violence Victims: A Qualitative Analysis

Garza, A.D., Franklin, C.A., & Goodson, A. (2021).
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1 – 26.
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Expanded Abstract: 

Intimate partner violence (IPV) among Latinas is just as common when compared to other racial and ethnic groups of women (Gonzalez et al., 2018); prevalence estimates have ranged from 15% to 80% (Cavanaugh et al., 2014; Sabina et al., 2015; Smith et al., 2018). For Latina immigrant women specifically, studies have estimated that 35–51% will experience some form of psychologically controlling behaviors, physical, and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime (Denham et al., 2007; Fedovskiy et al., 2008; Fife et al., 2008; Hass et al., 2000). Despite this frequency, only approximately one-quarter of Latina immigrant IPV victims will report these incidents to police (Ammar et al., 2005; Cuevas et al., 2014; Zadnik et al., 2016).

Given that low rate of reaching out for help, police officers, as “gatekeepers” (Kerstetter, 1990) of the criminal legal system, hold the discretionary authority that has determined how these IPV incidents will be processed in terms of generating a formal report, investigation, and referral for prosecution. In other words, police are the first point of contact for victims and have the ability to intervene and make decisions among cases reported by Latina immigrant IPV victims.

While an increasing body of literature has assessed police response to intimate partner violence (IPV), a dearth of this research has examined police decision-making with formal reports of IPV among Latina immigrants. The current study addressed this substantive gap by assessing a sample of 36 police case files drawn from an agency located in one of the fifth most populous and diverse US cities.

Results from the current study identified five themes related to shortcomings in police response to Latina immigrant IPV victims. The themes included cultural coercive control, language barriers, victim participation, case clearance efforts, and service provision. The study discusses policy implications and proposes avenues for future research.

(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above)