Domestic Violence: The Changing Criminal Justice

Domestic Violence: The Changing Criminal Justice

Domestic Violence: The Changing Criminal Justice

Domestic Violence: The Changing Criminal Justice


The markedly increased attention focused on violence within families has gripped the concerned interest not only of academic researchers but also that of the public and its law enforcement and criminal justice segments. Contemporary recognition of the widespread problem of abuse within the home, often dramatically and poignantly detailed, has not, however, led to clear and universally accepted public institutional responses. This authoritative volume presents a comprehensive evaluation of approaches, policies, and practical enforcement measures that have been effected by law enforcement and criminal justice bodies.


Eve S. Buzawa and Carl G. Buzawa

One of the most explosive issues facing the criminal justice system today is how to react to and control interpersonal violence. Until recently, primary attention was placed upon the control of violence committed by strangers. Such acts were properly seen not only as inflicting serious harm, if not fatalities, on their victims but also as challenging the essence of a public order committed to nonviolent resolution of disputes.

Within the last fifteen years, attention has also focussed on what is statistically the greater problem, violence within family structures. One 1986 statistical estimate by the U.S. Bureau of Justice was that over 50 percent of the violent attacks upon women and 33 percent of the attacks upon men were committed by family members or acquaintances. Because of the widespread nature of abuse, concerns that first arose over abused children enlarged to encompass other family members, as awareness grew of previously unreported incidents of brutal attacks upon intimates, even elderly relatives.

Headlines detailing vicious and sometimes fatal injuries inflicted on family members became the impetus for a spreading network of shelters designed to assist the victims of "wife abuse" or "wife battering." Advocates for these women came in time to realize that the police and courts extended, often deliberately, only the scantest attention to the needs of such victims. the minimal responses of these institutions to challenges to do more prompted the uncovering and publicizing of major attitudinal and structural impediments to performance.

The existence of a profoundly unresponsive criminal justice system in turn interacted with the growing consciousness that the "privacy" accorded to the traditional patriarchical family unit was one of the key structural barriers to the fulfillment of women's rights. Feminists began to discern a clear, if perhaps unconscious, pattern by which the criminal justice system ignored crimes com-

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