What Counts as Domestic Violence? A Conceptual Analysis

33 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2005


This essay analyses the conceptual structure of domestic violence and critiques various influential accounts of domestic violence operating in the criminal justice system, legal and sociological academia, and the domestic violence advocacy community. Section A presents a preliminary philosophical analysis of domestic violence, with the goal of furthering our understanding of the correct use of this concept. This analysis centers around three key elements of domestic violence: violence, domesticity, and structural inequality. Section B develops an explanatory model of domestic violence based upon these key elements. Section C examines and critiques four principal accounts of domestic violence, each of which reflects the conflicting ways in which the concept of domestic violence is used in the language and methodology of the criminal justice, academic, and advocacy communities. Finally, this essay endorses an account of domestic violence which roughly corresponds to that employed in the recent work of sociologist, Michael Johnson.

Keywords: Domestic violence, criminal law, conceptual analysis

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Dempsey, Michelle Madden, What Counts as Domestic Violence? A Conceptual Analysis. William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 12, No. 2, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=820866

Michelle Madden Dempsey (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

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