Betrayed by the Blue: Intimate Partner Violence and Institutional Betrayal by the Criminal Legal System


  • Bailey Blewitt, Psychology, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Angela Hattery, Women and Gender Studies, University of Delaware
  • Earl Smith, Women & Gender Studies, University of Delaware


Survivors of intimate partner violence engage in a multitude of help-seeking behaviors; mostly commonly they engage the criminal legal system. Thus, when this institution betrays the trust of those dependent on them by being negligent or prosecutory, this is called institutional betrayal. The research strives to elucidate and describe the types of institutional betrayal that victims/survivors of IPV experience when they report their abuse to the criminal legal system. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews with 11 women and impacted by intimate partner violence. Four themes emerged: (1) indifference by criminal legal system actors (2) being criminalized by criminal legal system actors, (3) The benefits of ‘insider status’, and (4) Having to be “in the system” to use the system. It is crucial that we recognize the inconsistencies and mistreatment within our current criminal legal system in order to better protect and support victims and survivors of IPV equally and effectively.