A woman abused by a police officer endures a life of secrecy and desperation, say domestic violence experts quoted by the Chicago Tribune. She feels she can’t report the abuse to the police, because he is the police. She can’t hide in a shelter; he knows where they are. In court, it’s her word against that of a sworn officer. “It’s something that is just bubbling underneath the radar screen in this country, when it comes to police family violence,” said Margaret Moore of the National Center for Women and Policing.
When domestic violence cases involving officers are thrust into the media glare, such as the well-publicized allegations against former Bolingbrook, Il., Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, who denied them–experts believe that awareness can encourage lawmakers and police agencies to institute policies that help protect oft-hidden victims. Police supervisors should handle allegations against line officers, advocates for domestic-violence victims say. It takes the pressure off the responding officer’s having to mediate a situation that could potentially cost a colleague his police job. It also removes the possibility of officers covering up for a buddy. “That’s a big part of the police culture, the code of silence,” said Diane Wetendorf, author, advocate and consultant specializing in police-perpetrated domestic violence. “Some officers may have direct knowledge of what’s happening. Many of them have an idea of what’s going on and purposely ignore it or look another way.”