Handbook of Domestic Violence Intervention Strategies: Policies, Programs, and Legal Remedies

By Albert R. Roberts | Go to book overview

7
Court Responses to Battered Women
and Their Children
ALBERT R. ROBERTS
KAREL KURST-SWANGER

We have come a long way during the past two decades as responsive prosecutors, judges, and legislators have begun to recognize family violence as a serious crime. All 50 states have passed civil and/or criminal statutes to protect battered women, and prosecutors' offices are beginning to implement efficient systems of screening and prosecuting cases. Police and courts, in a small yet growing number of jurisdictions, have set up an around-the-clock method of issuing temporary restraining orders and providing advocacy as cases move through court. Although court-mandated batterer treatment programs have been developed on a limited basis, more are needed. Further research into the effectiveness of different treatment modalities with battered women and their abusive partners is needed as well.

Historically, domestic violence has been handled by the courts in a fragmented fashion. Although court jurisdiction varies from state to state, typically a woman who was married to or had children in common with her abuser had to utilize the civil court system or divorce court, whereas a woman who has been battered by a partner to whom she was not married, or with whom she had no children in common, usually sought assistance from the family or criminal courts. Just as the police have been reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic abuse, family and criminal courts have been plagued by the same lack of knowledge about the dynamics of domestic violence. Civil courts provided a forum in which family problems could be addressed; however, they lacked the statutory power to truly sanction abus-

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