Intimacy and Injury: How Law Has Changed for Battered Women

59 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2004

See all articles by Phyllis Goldfarb

Phyllis Goldfarb

George Washington University Law School


In a book focused on the intersection of law and psychology in women's lives, this chapter reviews the evolving law of domestic violence, examining the features of the legal landscape that have changed in the past three decades for those who have experienced violence in intimate relationships. The chapter considers the legal development of interventions such as civil protection orders, civil lawsuits, mandatory arrest and no-drop prosecution policies, the conception of crimes such as restraining order violations and stalking, and the potential use of alternative forms of dispute resolution. Changes in the law of self-defense as applied to intimate violence cases - for example, the contested notion of battered woman syndrome - are also assessed. The chapter explores broadly the theoretical and practical issues surrounding these policies and concepts and the controversies that they have provoked. Particular attention is paid to the use of executive clemency processes in many states as a form of retrospective relief for defendants convicted of crimes against their batterers, analyzing those battered women's clemency projects that met with considerable success as well as those which ended largely in disappointment. The chapter seeks to gauge the extent of the overall progress in law's efforts to address the problem of intimate violence and to identify the continuing difficulties facing its victims.

Keywords: domestic violence, clemency, self-defense, battered woman syndrome

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Phyllis, Intimacy and Injury: How Law Has Changed for Battered Women. Available at SSRN:

Phyllis Goldfarb (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202.994.7463 (Phone)

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