May 7, 1997

Learning From the Paradoxes of Domestic Violence

Author Affiliations

From the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington.

JAMA. 1997;277(17):1400-1401. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540410078035

"The assailant called the police after his wife had placed a call for help to show her that 'nobody was going to come.' When the police arrived, the victim initially denied that she had been assaulted and reported that her husband, who was standing behind the drapes with a pistol in hand, had left."1

In this brief scenario, Brookoff et al1 capture the contradictions that frequently surround domestic violence. The assailant and victim use police services in paradoxical ways: The assailant, confident of the general ineffectiveness of law enforcement interventions, actually calls the police as part of a pattern of threatening behavior. The victim appears to protect her assailant when police arrive, but in the final analysis her behavior is a strategic attempt to prevent further violence, protecting herself and police officers on the scene. The victim bears little evidence of assault, yet her risk of serious injury