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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Background Information and DOJ Guidance

While progress has been made over the past several decades in improving the law enforcement response to sexual assault and domestic violence, national surveys of survivors and advocates demonstrate significant apprehension on the part of victims of these crimes to reach out to law enforcement for help, as well as significant challenges when they do.  In response to these issues, the Department of Justice (DOJ) developed guidance- with input from a wide variety of stakeholders, including police leaders, victim advocates, and civil rights advocates – to assist law enforcement and advocates in better identifying and preventing gender bias in the law enforcement response to sexual assault and domestic violence. The guidance also highlighted lessons learned and key principles that emerged from cases that were pursued by the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the resulting comprehensive agreements developed with police departments that included efforts to improve the police response to domestic violence and sexual assault. The guidance focuses on the importance of developing a survivor-centered approach that is trauma-informed, as well as continuing to improve officer training, agency policies, resources, and partnerships.  The DOJ subsequently distributed significant new grant awards to enhance training and technical assistance nationally, support research and evaluation, and provide additional resources to assist law enforcement agencies to implement the guidance.

Background Information: Surveys of Survivors and Advocates
DOJ Guidance

Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (DOJ Guidance), U.S. Department of Justice, December 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice developed this guidance with input from key stakeholders to assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to reduce and improve their response to sexual assault and domestic violence and to administer justice when these crimes occur. It examines how gender bias, whether implicit or explicit, can undermine law enforcement agencies’ response to sexual assault and domestic violence; and provides a set of key principles that will help ensure that agency efforts to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable are not undermined by gender bias.

DOJ Civil Rights Cases that provided a foundation for the DOJ Guidance
The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice supports police reform efforts through the enforcement of the civil prohibition on a “pattern or practice” of policing that violates the Constitution or other federal laws. These cases, known as “pattern-or-practice cases,” begin with investigations of allegations of systemic police misconduct and, when the allegations are substantiated, result in comprehensive agreements designed to support constitutional and effective policing and seek to restore trust between police and local communities. The resources listed below highlight some of these cases brought by the DOJ Civil Rights Division that resulted in consent decrees that included efforts to improve the police response to sexual assault and/or domestic violence. The lessons learned from these cases helped to inform the principles that are set forth in the DOJ Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer, April 21, 2015

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula who were victims of rape, including their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, and defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.