The Negative Impact of Police Linguistic Towards Domestic Abuse Victims
Wayze Couzens was recently sentenced for the murder of Sarah Everard. In this light, Police Commissioner Philip Allot said that women of today need to be more informed about when they can be arrested or not. It was noted that Couzens had abused his authority and falsely arrested Everard. However, Allot emphasized that it is the responsibility of women not to get murdered and raped by the police.
Allot’s statements exemplified Susannah Fish’s, former chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, view in policing, which sheds more light on the toxic culture of sexism. Fish mentioned “victim-blaming” is endemic in the police force and that women who report these problems only face repeated humiliation. She also added that women are expected to tell their stories repeatedly and are made to be anxious that they are not telling the truth. Fish believes that this is a rampant issue regarding cases of domestic abuse.
Nick Lynn, a former UK domestic violence specialist officer, and Fish have analyzed the language police officers use when interrogating 18 domestic abuse cases. It was then discovered that every case was disposed of only with a simple caution; this means that there were no criminal charges implemented.
Lynn and Fish have also analyzed the MG3 form, a document that outlines a case. This file is composed by the officer in charge after every investigation. The document then goes to another officer called the gatekeeper; they are usually high ranked personnel whose task is to keep an eye over a case before it reaches the Crown Prosecution Service who will make a decision.
A pattern of victim-blaming has been found in the language gatekeepers, and police officers use in these documents. It was shown that the weight of verbs was not accurately addressed in the process of reporting. Some cases also depicted that the construction of sentences may have been a mitigating factor for the suspect’s involvement in the crime. Conversely, sometimes, victims were painted as factors and partly to blame as they put themselves in that situation.
Lyn and Fish believe that the choice of words or linguistics may influence a prosecutor’s judgment in giving a just and reasonable charge over these cases.
From March 2019 to March 2020, England and Wales recorded over 1,288,018 cases of domestic violence. And only 79,965 incidents managed to escalate through the Crown Prosecution Service.
This data alone gave so much light to the leniency abusers get over their sentences. Interpretations through black and white can significantly affect how crimes are reported and presented. This also illustrates the impact it can suggest in minimizing penalties for crimes of domestic abuse.