What’s Love Got to Do with It? Examining Domestic Violence as a Public Health Issue Using 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

32 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2013

Date Written: September 16, 2013

Abstract

Domestic violence was first characterized as a public health issue in the 1980s because it affects the mental and physical health of women who are abused, family members who witness the abuse and abuser, and society in general. Nevertheless, society continues to rely heavily on the criminal justice system to address the issue of domestic violence. This article argues that the criminal justice system alone cannot erase domestic violence. It cannot address the behaviors that are unknown or unreported, nor study the risk factors associated with those who abuse and those who are abused. While reliance on the criminal justice system may result in punishing the perpetrator, the punishment is often not effective. Such system often results in shaming the individual who has been abused. In short, the focus of the criminal justice system is not focused on preventing the underlying problems that result in domestic violence.

This article uses law and literature, specifically Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" to discuss the issue of domestic violence and the importance of public health strategies to address the problem. This article argues that we should rely more heavily on public health strategies to prevent domestic violence.

Although the Violence Against Women Act was enacted almost twenty years ago, domestic violence is still an epidemic. Popular magazines frequently follow the lives of celebrities who often remind us that even though abusers may be punished, domestic violence is far from elimination. For example, in 2009 rapper/singer Chris Brown brutally beat his girlfriend Rihanna. Although he pleaded guilty to assault and is still on probation, Brown has appeared together with Rihanna as a couple in the past few months.

When public health strategies are combined with criminal justice remedies, the end result is a more proactive approach to domestic violence that relies first on preventative measures and uses criminal remedies as a backup.

Keywords: domestic violence, public health

Suggested Citation

Davidson, Camille M., What’s Love Got to Do with It? Examining Domestic Violence as a Public Health Issue Using 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' (September 16, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2326454

Camille M. Davidson (Contact Author)

Charlotte School of Law ( email )

Charlotte, NC

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