Achieving Batterer Accountability in the Child Protection System

45 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2007

See all articles by Leigh Goodmark

Leigh Goodmark

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law


Over the last several years, judges, lawyers, domestic violence professionals and child protective services workers have joined to develop policies and practices for working more effectively in cases involving domestic violence and child maltreatment. While those efforts have met with some success, one critical failing has been the inability to hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their behavior against battered parents and their children. One graphic illustration of the failure to involve batterers in these cases in a meaningful way was the inability of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York to find a class representative for alleged batterers in the landmark case brought by battered mothers and their children against New York's Administration for Children's Services, Nicholson v. Williams. While all involved in these efforts have embraced batterer accountability in principle, in practice achieving batterer accountability has been elusive - in large part, I believe, because the legal system has been used to attempt to hold perpetrators responsible. While much has been written about domestic violence and child protection reform efforts, no one has asked why attempts to hold batterers accountable have been so unsuccessful or proposed alternative methods to hold perpetrators responsible for their actions. In this article, I answer that question and propose alternatives to reflexively turning to the legal system.

Keywords: domestic violence, child protection, women, child welfare

Suggested Citation

Goodmark, Leigh, Achieving Batterer Accountability in the Child Protection System. Kentucky Law Journal, Vol. 93, No. 3, 2004-05, Available at SSRN:

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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