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DOJ announces new guidelines for responding to domestic assault

Imagine reporting a crime you have witnessed to a police officer. You tell the officer what happened, when it happened and details about who was involved. Then imagine that the officer responds as if he or she doesn't believe you.

This, unfortunately, is the situation that too many men and women face when it comes to allegations of domestic violence or assault. In fact, inadequate law enforcement response to such claims has been found to be such a serious problem that the Department of Justice recently announced a set of guidelines to help state and local agencies respond better in domestic violence cases.

Many of the guidelines stem from concerns about discrimination and bias on the part of law enforcement agents. According to the DOJ announcement, many victims of violence are not believed or protected by police due to assumptions about the people or person involved.

In order to address the problem and keep it from jeopardizing the safety and well-being of the people involved, the DOJ is asking law enforcement agencies to recognize certain policies when it comes to domestic violence situations. 

The policies, which can all be read in this announcement by the DOJ, include protocols from addressing stereotypes and biases to following up on the data collected in domestic and/or sexual assault cases. Also included in the guidelines are principles reminding officers to properly identify the alleged attacker without bias and to utilize interview tools that encourage people to speak up and provide details.

While it is certainly positive that the DOJ is working to improve police response to domestic violence situations, it highlights the current problems and biases that exist. Because of these issues, many victims -- and wrongfully accused attackers -- can find it very hard to trust law enforcement agents. 

However, you should know that if you are in a situation involving domestic assault, you do not have to go through this difficult time alone. You can work with an attorney to pursue protection orders, challenge wrongful arrests and protect yourself and your family in situations involving issues like divorce and/or child custody. Having someone by your side can make it easier for you to speak up and pursue an appropriate outcome.