Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Health Professionals

By Lyn Shipway | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Domestic violence and the legal system
Abused women face a number of problems within the legal process: access to legal representation; lack of specialist services or interpreters for black and ethnic minority women; the trauma of the court process; the lack of training for court staff on the impact of domestic violence on women and children and the reasons why many women stay with or return to a violent partner.
WOMEN'S AID FEDERATION 2002
As one would expect, the impact of the legal system in a range of areas related to domestic violence is both complex and, many would argue, less than perfect for women in abusive circumstances. This chapter explores the law as it relates to the multi-faceted issues including: what can be done to protect the abused; what happens to the perpetrator; and how the legal system can be used to protect the rights of the abused including children within the relationship. Abused women face several significant challenges within the legal process:
• Access to legal representation: many women are said to feel intimidated by the prospect of seeking legal intervention.
• Costs of legal assistance: not all women are eligible for Legal Aid, so for women who are accountable to their partners for the household budget, seeking legal assistance may appear impossible.
• The trauma of the court process is usually protracted, often adversarial and not renowned for positive treatment of women.
• Lack of specialist services or interpreters for women with disabilities or for black and ethnic minority women increases the trauma of the process.
• Women may find that initiating legal processes exacerbates the violence.
• Legal processes can be protracted which in situations where time is of the essence and could be a source of danger for the woman. It is also difficult for the woman to sustain the secrecy that may be necessary for her to exit the relationship unharmed.

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