Redefining Harm, Reimagining Remedies and Reclaiming Domestic Violence Law
Margaret Ellen Johnson
University of Baltimore - School of Law
UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 42, 2009
University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-4
Civil domestic violence laws do not effectively address and redress the harms suffered by women subjected to domestic violence. The Civil Protective Order (“CPO”) laws should offer a remedy for all domestic abuse with an understanding that domestic violence subordinates women. These laws should not remedy only physical violence or criminal acts. All forms of abuse — psychological, emotional, economic, and physical — are interrelated. Not only do these abuses cause severe emotional distress, physical harm, isolation, sustained fear, intimidation, poverty, degradation, humiliation, and coerced loss of autonomy, but, as researchers have demonstrated, most domestic violence is the fundamental operation of systemic oppression through the exertion of power and control. Because CPOs are effective in rebalancing the power in a relationship and decreasing abuse, this remedy should be available to all women subjected to all forms of domestic violence. This Article proposes recrafting the civil law to provide a remedy for all harms of domestic violence and its operation of systemic power and control over women. Re-centering the narrative of domestic violence on this oppression rather than merely physical violence and criminal acts underscores the critical role of women’s agency and autonomy in legally remedying domestic violence. Too often, outside actors choose to save women’s lives to the exclusion of effectuating women’s choices about their abusive relationships.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 58
Keywords: Domestic Violence, Civil Protective Order, Civil Law, Women and the Law, Feminist Legal Theory, Gender and the Law
JEL Classification: K19, K39, K40
Date posted: November 19, 2008 ; Last revised: August 16, 2010
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