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Malin Åkerström

Malin Åkerström

Professor emerita

Malin Åkerström

Police Persuasion: Making Battered Women File a Complaint


  • Malin Åkerström

Summary, in English

A common theme in sociological literature on "domestic violence" is that police officers view such cases as private problems and not as objects for proper policework. Thus, it is argued that police officers interactionally discourage arrest in domestic disturbance cases.

In an etnographic study of Swedish police officers, however, police officers, instead of discouraging arrest or filing of complaints, often engaged in various interactional, mainly conversational, strategies to make a case in events where women were said to have been abused in a relationship. One encounter between one police officer and one woman is presented to illustrate this tendency where the interactional practice of a persuasion, aiming to produce a written complaint, is examined. The police in this case uses a trajectory of "Something has to be done" which is embedded in symbolic and concrete forms of “doing sympathy”. This case illustrates one particular persuasion strategy, answering to Lisa's stance. This is built on a trajectory, in which a vague formulation of "something has to be done" builds up to the advice that filing a complaint is the logical step to take: maneuvering Lisa into agreeing that filing a complaint fits the situation. A sequence of "yes" answers by getting a person to agree on some general plane, then going for a "yes" on a more contentious issue is a course used in other legal settings too, as suggested by Paul Drews studies..

This persuasive tendency is understood as a result both of being exposed to courses, lectures, and mass media, that encourages the police view women exposed to violence as a serious matter and “to do something,” this being defined as acting in a formal manner. When they resorted to the action of 'mediation', which was invoked either when the cases did not seem to qualify for being accepted for future processing in the judicial system.

Police officers' work rationale involved applying interactional persuasion work in cases which were seen as qualifying.


  • Sociology

Publishing year







International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family





Document type

Journal article


Oxford University Press


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • battered women
  • filing a complaint
  • rhetorical strategies
  • police
  • sociology
  • persuasion
  • sociologi



Research group

  • Kriminal- och socialvetenskapligt nätverk


  • ISSN: 1464-3707