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Police victims of domestic abuse: barriers to reporting victimisation

Couto, Leticia; O’Leary, Nicola; Brennan, Iain



Policing is the institution responsible for protecting victims of domestic abuse and the institution to which victimisation is formally reported. The police workforce, therefore, are routinely exposed to domestic abuse victimisation, perpetration and its consequences. When police themselves become victims of domestic abuse, the interaction between personal and professional identity and cultures may exacerbate the harms of victimisation and discourage victims from reporting victimisation. In this study, we describe themes that emerged from accounts of reporting and not reporting domestic abuse by police officers and staff in an English police force. Through the lenses of victimology theory and police culture theory, we describe how there appears to be few protective components of working in policing and several adverse consequences for victims. Reporting was impeded by difficulty recognising abuse and experiencing feelings of shame in a way similar to that of many non-police victims. These common obstacles were exacerbated by a conflict between police and victim identities, by significant concern about formal and informal violations of privacy by colleagues and by worry about potential damage to their career. These challenges were particularly acute when the perpetrator also worked in policing. The paper concludes with a call for researchers, policy makers and policing to recognise and respond to the unique vulnerabilities inherent in the police-victim overlap.


Couto, L., O’Leary, N., & Brennan, I. (2023). Police victims of domestic abuse: barriers to reporting victimisation. Policing and Society,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 16, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 24, 2023
Publication Date Jan 1, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 5, 2023
Journal Policing and Society
Print ISSN 1043-9463
Electronic ISSN 1477-2728
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Domestic abuse; Policing; Violence against women; Reporting victimisation
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Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Received: 2023-03-10; Accepted: 2023-08-16; Published: 2023-08-24


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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

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