Justice Department Announces Updated Guidance on Improving Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence by Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias
The Justice Department today announced guidance to help law enforcement agencies (LEAs) recognize, mitigate and prevent gender bias and other biases from compromising the response to, and investigation of, sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.
“At the Department of Justice, we know that investigating cases involving sexual assault and domestic violence is challenging – it demands thorough investigations and a careful effort to avoid unintentionally worsening the victimization for survivors of these crimes,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “This guidance provides best practices that — when implemented into all levels of policy, training and supervision — help law enforcement provide services free from discrimination on the basis of gender, and therefore handle these cases more effectively.”
The department is committed to reducing violent crime, building strong communities, and ending gender-based violence. The 2022 guidance builds on the first principle of the department’s comprehensive strategy to reduce violent crime by building trust through meaningful law enforcement engagement with, and accountability to, the communities they serve, including survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“When gender bias impacts policing — from ignoring reports of sexual assault, mishandling sexual misconduct investigations or the failure to discipline officers who commit domestic violence — law enforcement’s legitimacy erodes, and survivors’ trust in police is diminished,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our dedication to combatting gender bias in policing is about promoting accountability, and fostering greater trust in investigations of gender-based violence.”
“The guidance announced today reaffirms our commitment to expanding access to justice for all survivors, who deserve respect, compassion and self-determination,” said Office on Violence Against Women Acting Director Allison Randall. “Eliminating gender bias in policing is a key piece in ending gender-based violence, and can have a real, immediate impact on the safety of survivors, their loved ones and, indeed, their entire communities.”
The guidance reflects input from a wide array of stakeholders, including law enforcement leaders, victim advocates, and civil rights advocates, and builds on previous guidance the department issued in 2015. The original 2015 guidance served two key purposes. First, it examined how gender bias can undermine the response of LEAs to sexual assault and domestic violence. Second, it provided a set of eight basic principles that – if integrated into LEAs’ policies, trainings and practices – help ensure that gender bias, either intentionally or unintentionally, does not undermine efforts to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable. The 2022 revisions to the guidance maintain and build on this framework.
Based on input from stakeholders, the 2022 guidance more thoroughly addresses the need for trauma-informed law enforcement responses to sexual and domestic violence; provides additional examples of how LEAs can incorporate the guidance principles into their policies and practices; discusses the ways that gender bias can intersect with other forms of bias to disproportionately affect survivors from marginalized communities, including but not limited to communities of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) survivors, immigrant survivors and individuals with limited English proficiency; and expands the discussion of the need to address and prevent officer-committed domestic violence and sexual misconduct to hold offenders accountable and enhance community trust.
In conjunction with the revised guidance, the department’s OVW is launching a new webpage, which hosts a comprehensive, annotated list of resources designed to assist LEAs working to implement the guidance and its core principles. Most of these resources have been developed since 2015 and reflect the work of national law enforcement organizations and other DOJ-funded technical assistance providers.