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For turning notifications on or off on Google Chrome and Android click here , for Firefox click here , for Safari click here and for Microsoft's Edge click here. Unfortunately, once legislation is passed, it is mistakenly credited with solving the problem. Unfortunately, too, studies of the outcomes of feminist law reform efforts have persistently demonstrated that decision makers are often highly resistant to putting the provisions of the statutes into practice, and that much-heralded legal interventions may have little or no impact in practice.

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Numerous commentators, for example, have documented the failure of feminist rape law reforms, [22] and the ways in which battered woman syndrome evidence has been twisted out of its intended shape. Various diagnoses of the implementation problem have been offered. The ability for internal legal cultures to persist and thrive in opposition to legislative mandates may be attributed to the relative autonomy of legal decision makers and the scope of the discretion they possess. Thus, according to Horney and Spohn:. More fundamentally, some feminist critical theorists have argued that law is a twoedged sword for women, which can end up doing more harm than good.

These different accounts of the implementation problem in law reform are perhaps not so far apart, in that they each identify ideas or discourses circulating both outside and inside the legal system which may operate in opposition to. The article takes up this point in identifying legal and extralegal discourses about domestic violence which demonstrably affect the implementation of feminist reforms relating to domestic violence. Feminist domestic violence advocates and activists have developed a particular analysis of the dynamics of domestic violence which seeks to bring to light the collective accounts and experiences of survivors of violence and abuse.

These accounts have generally been excluded from mainstream discourses about violence such as social work, psychology, and criminal justice. This analysis has also been tested and confirmed in a limited number of prevalence surveys that have looked beyond the incidence of physical violence. This feminist understanding of domestic violence may be represented schematically as follows:. There is a substantial gender disparity in who initiates violence and who is more physically harmed by it.

Coping Among Adult Female Victims of Domestic Violence

A woman striking back in anger or in self-defence is not engaged in mutual battering. There is also a clear gender disparity in who seeks safety from violence. Physical assaults and sexual abuse reinforce other tactics such as emotional abuse, isolation, minimisation, denial and blaming the target of violence, using the children to get at the target, asserting male privilege, economic abuse, coercion and threats, and intimidation.

The pain from physical injuries fades, but fear does not go away. Some women are hit for the first time when they are pregnant. Their perceptions of danger are accurate. Instead, they often support violent men's beliefs that their partners should be subordinate to them and comply with their demands, and also tend to engage in denial, minimisation, excuses, and victim blaming, rather than holding men accountable for their behaviour.

Some still love their partners. Practical obstacles include leaving safely without attracting a violent response, finding alternative housing, and surviving economically,. And he will often come after her when she does. This is when women are possibly in the greatest danger of being killed, as the violent partner seeks to reinstate his power and control over her.

Although the feminist account of domestic violence as power and control is widely accepted, it has been variously extended, modified and in some respects rejected by non-white women, women with disabilities, and lesbians. The particular and different experiences of domestic violence that have been asserted by these groups may be summarised as follows:. In her history of family violence, Linda Gordon outlines the shifting understandings and constructions of wife beating before the s, in line with shifts in institutional power to define the phenomenon between the Church, the police, social workers, and the discipline of psychology.

This section explores social and legal stories about domestic violence that diverge from those put forward by feminists, and which, as discussed in the following section, were evident in the court proceedings observed. Again, they may be set out schematically as follows:. Domestic violence in non-western cultures is often understood in the west as being a product of religion or tradition, and as a sign of the inferiority of the culture in question compared with western culture.

The article now turns to the understandings of domestic violence observed in intervention order and some Family Court proceedings. This section begins with an outline of the legislative framework for intervention orders operating in Victoria, which serves to invite and shape judicial statements and assumptions about domestic violence.


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  5. The task of the magistrate in intervention order proceedings is to determine whether the legal requirements for an intervention order have been made out. Thus, the legislative definition of violence focuses on specific behaviours by the perpetrator, but is not limited to physical assaults. Thus, in addition to the legislative grounds for an order, the magistrate should also consider the balance of convenience in deciding whether or not to make an order. Many of my interviewees made the point that there was considerable variation among magistrates in their approaches to determining intervention order applications.

    These included participation in and endorsement of some of the non-feminist narratives about violence identified above. Magistrates did not see that a long history of violence including different forms of abuse necessarily established this element, and were more likely to be persuaded by a series of recent incidents, ideally including a breach of the interim order. Lawyers and support workers consistently noted that magistrates wanted to hear about recent incidents of physical violence, and that other forms of abuse verbal, emotional, financial, manipulation using the children, harassment had a lower priority and required much stronger advocacy if they were relied upon as the basis for an order.

    She had had three 12 month intervention orders, however the last of these had expired, and she was unable to obtain another one.

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    Because her exhusband had not breached the order or assaulted her in the last 12 months, and she was living at a secret address, he was considered no longer to be a threat to her. Magistrates also generally failed to appreciate something that abusive men appeared to appreciate very well — that a serious physical assault had ongoing psychological effects.

    One severe beating could terrorise a woman for life, without the need for the perpetrator ever to lift a finger again. Yet fear arising from a longago incident was not sufficient to ground an intervention order. The point was that women with similar experiences had appeared before them numerous times, and they had either not wanted to hear or had not listened. A second set of understandings that magistrates frequently brought to their hearing of intervention order applications was the notion that violence was a product of spousal conflict arising from the stresses of a marriage or de facto relationship.

    It followed that both parties were likely to be responsible for the violence, and that violence would stop once the parties separated. This understanding was well illustrated in one of the cases I observed. A young woman applied for an intervention order against her ex-boyfriend. She alleged that he had subjected her to frequent verbal abuse, pushed her around, pushed her out of a car, harassed her parents, and pursued her. As a result she had become fearful, had lost self-esteem and confidence, and had received counselling to try to recover from the effects of the abuse.

    Nevertheless, the magistrate allowed the defendant simply to make an undertaking not to have any further contact with the applicant, and also decided that it would be fair that the applicant should make a similar undertaking not to go near the defendant. The issue of mutual orders is discussed further below. Relationship stress and conflict was the dominant framework employed by magistrates in the small number of contested intervention order cases observed.

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    In three of these cases in particular, the separation had been quite recent and there were ongoing disputes as to who should retain possession of the matrimonial home. In each case, there was clear evidence of a history of abusive and controlling behaviour on the part of the husband, both before and after separation.

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    The magistrates, however, analysed the violence in terms of mutual responsibility and provocation. In one of these cases, the defendant had subjected the applicant and their children to frequent, shouted verbal abuse during the marriage, including a threat to burn down the house.

    After the first separation, the defendant had abducted two of the children, and the applicant had agreed to resume living with him if he brought the children back. In the most recent incident, the defendant had kicked in the front door of their house, and the police had been called. He specifically noted that it was not a physically violent relationship. The applicant argued that she would not be safe if this occurred. In relation to harassing or offensive behaviour, she found there was emotional volatility on both sides. She also urged the parties to attend mediation, reach a property settlement, and go their separate ways, so that there would be no need for further orders after the 12 month period had elapsed.

    Merry argues that women applying for protection orders are made into autonomous, liberal legal subjects, for whom the price of legal rights is separation and isolation.

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    Instead, his abuse had worsened, and she had returned to court to renew her application. The magistrate specifically stated that equivocation about their relationship would not be held against any applicant. They had lived together for five years and he had a history of jealousy and possessiveness. This was an alternative option for ending violence; that is, relationship conflict and its associated violence could be dealt with either by terminating the relationship, or by mending it.

    The reconciliation option was especially encouraged when there were children involved. In one matter, the applicant wanted her order varied so that she could facilitate greater contact between the defendant and their child. She noted that the defendant had been attending counselling and that this had been very beneficial. The magistrate granted the variation, observing that the relationship seemed to be improving, and that that was good for their son. The magistrate responded that of course they could talk about matters relating to the welfare of their child, and exhorted the parties to see if they could resolve their troubles and keep away from the courts.

    A third matter was an application for a final order, involving serious allegations of assault. The applicant had suffered occasional physical assaults in seven years of marriage, but alleged that over the last seven to eight months the violence had become more frequent, including pushing, punching, threats to kill, destruction of property, and hitting their son.