A Blue Step Forward: An Exploratory Study of Law Enforcement Perceptions of Intimate Partner Violence in the Southern United States

Academic Article


  • Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pervasive issue that is underreported to law enforcement. One reason why individuals do not report their victimization stems from a perceived lack of support from law enforcement officials. However, law enforcement perceptions of IPV are largely unknown as the empirical literature on this topic is both limited and dated. To fill this gap in the literature, we conduct an exploratory analysis of how officers perceive IPV events. Utilizing original survey data from 498 law enforcement officers in a Southern state, officer perceptions of offenders, victims, and the credibility of IPV calls are explored. We also evaluate whether those perceptions vary by personal characteristics of officers by utilizing t-tests and correlations. Findings indicate that, overall, officer perceptions have evolved from the historical viewpoint that IPV events were a private family matter to contemporary perceptions that IPV is a serious crime that requires attention from law enforcement. Furthermore, results suggest differences in perceptions by officers’ personal characteristics (i.e., gender, rank, age, and years of law enforcement experience). With increasing age and years of law enforcement experience, victim-related factors are less salient in police perceptions of IPV calls. Regarding gender, female officers are less likely than male officers to believe victims may easily leave an abusive relationship and less likely to consider physical evidence of trauma to be very important in determining the credibility of an IPV call—suggesting that female officers are more in tune with the complexity of IPV cases. While officers appear to have a strong understanding of the contours of IPV incidents, overall, clear differences by personal characteristics were evident.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • El Sayed SA; DeShay RA; Davis JB; Knox KN; Kerley KR
  • Start Page

  • NP6514
  • End Page

  • NP6534
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 9-10