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Faculty Publication: Assistant Professor of Social Work Lisa Young Larance

May 24, 2024

Arrest Web Entanglement: Female Domestic Violence Survivors' Experiences with Police Intervention and Coercively Controlling Male Partners

Authors: Lisa Young Larance

Source: Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DOI: 10.1177/088626052412541, May 2024

Type of Publication: Article

Abstract: Although U.S.-based mandatory and preferred arrest laws and policies were created to promote domestic violence survivors’ safety, at times they have contributed to the wrongful arrest of women defending themselves against their abusive partners. While these laws and policies are the subject of broad critique, less considered are domestic violence survivors’ descriptions of the events that unfold after police officers respond to a domestic violence incident and before they make an arrest. This is an important area of inquiry as these events may highlight how the circumstances leading to wrongful arrest decisions are more complex than the laws and policies alone. Data from the present study came from the author’s larger in-depth qualitative investigation of 33 cisgender women’s descriptions of their legal and child protection systems involvement. The women were recruited from an antiviolence intervention agency receiving referrals from communities with mandatory and preferred laws and policies. The women had agency contact due to their use of force or alleged use of force. The respondents were diverse across race, age, class, ability, U.S. citizenship status, and sexual identity. The author analyzed the 33 women’s 51 interview transcripts and extensive fieldnotes using rigorous iterative analysis and constructivist grounded theory. The analysis revealed that seven of the 33 women, all of whom identified domestic and sexual violence survivorship histories, described a patterned series of events that unfolded after the police arrived at the domestic violence incident and before the police made an arrest. In this study, the author details three of the seven women’s stories to demonstrate how a series of events, including police prearrest questioning and their coercively controlling male partners’ tactics, facilitated the women’s entanglement in what the author refers to as an “arrest web.” Their incremental disentanglement from the arrest’s impact is also explored. Broad system-focused implications are discussed.