chapter  7
13 Pages

‘Violence’, criminal justice, the law, policy and practice

ByLESLEY LAING

As discussed in previous chapters, largely in response to calls by feminists, western governments have become increasingly involved over the last thirty years in responding to forms of violence and abuse that are commonly referred to as sexual and domestic violence against women. These forms of violence and abuse are characterized by the fact that they are commonly perpetrated against women, not by strangers, but by known men (Hanmer and Itzin, 2000). In the ensuing years, a wide range of policy and practice responses have been implemented, incorporating reforms and initiatives across diverse domains such as community based women’s services and the legal, health, housing and child protection sectors. These include, for example, the establishment of crisis accommodation and support for women escaping domestic violence, the development of specialist counselling and advocacy services for victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence, the promotion of coordinated interagency or ‘joined-up’ responses (James-Hanman, 2000) and the implementation of policies that aim to increase recognition by health services of the effects of victimization that are commonly manifested in a range of physical and mental health presentations (Itzin, 2006). This chapter focuses on legal responses to violence against women because these have been at the core of policy responses. Historically,1 the division between the spheres of ‘private’ and ‘public’ life meant that the state was reluctant to intervene in violence against women (Fineman and Mykitiuk, 1994). Hence a key demand of feminist activists was that violence committed within the privacy of intimate relationships be treated in the same way as violence committed in public, that is, as criminal behaviour (Epstein, 1999). Following on from the chapter by Phillips and taking the example of domestic violence, using feminist analysis as a point of critique, this chapter explores the extent to which legal remedies have achieved the core goals of domestic violence policy: increasing the safety of women and holding the perpetrators of violence and abuse accountable (Goodman and Epstein, 2005; Pence and McDonnell, 1999). It will be seen that

using the law to address domestic violence has proved more complex and challenging than originally anticipated (Belknap and Potter, 2005; Das Gupta, 2003). The chapter will also attempt to make sense of the challenges that have arisen in attempts to use the law and to identify ways forward.