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Changes to how police respond to domestic violence

The California court system regards domestic violence as a very serious crime. If convicted of domestic violence, the consequences can be severe, wide-ranging and have a long-lasting effect on the future. However, according to FindLaw, public perception of domestic violence has evolved over the years, which has, in turn, changed the way that police respond to a domestic violence call.

Currently, if there is sufficient evidence of abuse, many jurisdictions require that law enforcement officers responding to a domestic violence call make an arrest. However, this is a relatively recent development, dating back only to the late 1980s. Prior to the late 20th century, the assumption was that "real" police work did not include responding to domestic violence calls. Therefore, neither the police nor the courts have always taken domestic violence reports seriously.

Part of the reason for this is that in the past, the law treated a wife as though she were the property of her husband. Therefore, the assumption was that her husband had the right to control her, even by exerting force if necessary. A series of well-publicized court cases in which failure of law enforcement to protect domestic violence victims led to the murders of several women by abusive male partners sparked public outrage and prompted a revised approach to handling domestic violence cases both by police and in the courts. 

Domestic violence laws currently on the books acknowledge that both men and women can be victims, as well as perpetrators, of domestic violence. Unfortunately, however, public perception does not always keep up with the facts. FindLaw goes on to note that male victims of domestic violence are less likely to report abuse than female victims, in part because they fear that police, assuming that the victim in a domestic violence case must be a woman, will arrest them rather than their female partners.

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