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Reframing Domestic Violence Law and Policy: An Anti-Essentialist Proposal


Leigh Goodmark


University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

January 28, 2010

Journal of Law & Policy, Vol. 31, pp. 39-56, 2009

Abstract:     
This essay argues that a central failure in domestic violence law and policy reform has been the creation of a body of law and set of policies based on outmoded notions of what domestic violence is, who women who experience violence and their partners are, and what they need and want. The influence of dominance feminism on domestic violence law and policy is largely to blame for this excessively narrow and problematic view of domestic violence. By contrast, anti-essentialist feminism requires us to delve into the complexities of the lives of individual women and consider all of who they are, rather than reducing them to their lowest common denominator - their common experience of domestic violence. To that end, this essay suggests a number of anti-essentialist principles for reinventing domestic violence law and policy. These principles should guide the reconsideration of the legal response to domestic violence and underpin concrete choices about policy, legislation, and systemic reform. These principles are not exhaustive, but serve as a jumping off point for further discussion about how an anti-essentialist feminist response to domestic violence would look.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: Women, Domestic Violence, Family Law, Feminist Legal Theory

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Date posted: January 29, 2010 ; Last revised: March 18, 2010

Suggested Citation

Goodmark, Leigh, Reframing Domestic Violence Law and Policy: An Anti-Essentialist Proposal (January 28, 2010). Journal of Law & Policy, Vol. 31, pp. 39-56, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1543843

Contact Information

Leigh Goodmark (Contact Author)
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )
500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States
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