chapter  6
36 Pages

Policy conundrums – reframing ‘domestic violence’ in the new millennium

At different points in time over the last century, and most intensively over the last four decades, Western feminists have fought with various degrees of success to have men’s violence in the private or ‘domestic’ sphere recognised as a pressing public issue. Not all of this anti-violence work is well known. Some had to be reclaimed by feminist scholarship. An exemplary instance, referred to in Chapter 5, is that of Carol Smart’s rediscovery of feminist campaigns in early twentieth-century England to get adult-child sexual contact reinterpreted as harmful. Smart had two aims in charting the early discursive battles between, on the one hand, feminist pressure groups attempting to extend the criminal law to cover various forms of adult-child sex and, on the other, a largely impervious legal profession and judiciary which stood firm in defence of men’s sexual rights. Her first aim was to join the ‘older voices’ of the early ‘feminist/purity’ and child-saving campaigners to ‘the voices of those who are still pushing for reform in this area’. For although it was ‘shocking and depressing to find that feminist campaigners in the 1910s and 1920s knew what we think we discovered in the 1970s’, she felt it might help buttress arguments that still needed to be made at the turn of the new millennium. Her second, related aim was to help explain why child sexual abuse is still widespread by showing how the discursive struggle to name victims and perpetrators has a long and unfinished history.1