Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 353–370 | Cite as

“Whoa! They Could’ve Arrested Me!”: Unsuccessful Identity Claims of Women During Police Response to Intimate Partner Violence

  • Amy Leisenring


Many jurisdictions in the U.S. have implemented mandatory arrest policies in an attempt to limit police officers’ discretion in their arrest decisions when responding to intimate partner violence calls. Drawing from semi-structured interviews with female victims of intimate partner violence, I explore the ways in which mandatory arrest policies have influenced the identity work of women during their interactions with police officers. I focus specifically on women’s “unsuccessful” identity claims: situations where women are unable to convince police officers that they are victims and situations where women are unable to convince officers that they are not victims. I examine the strategies that women use during their identity work and explore the consequences of women’s failed self presentations under mandatory arrest policies, the most significant of which is a woman’s arrest. I argue that under mandatory arrest policies, for many women, the risk of failed identity work is even more consequential than before these policies were established.


Identity work Intimate partner violence Mandatory arrest Police Victimization 



I am deeply thankful for the feedback and support provided by Susan Murray. I also thank Javier Auyero and the anonymous reviewers at Qualitative Sociology for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyOne Washington SquareSan JoseUSA

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