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101 In the previous three chapters, I examined the experiences of women who face violence but are marginalized by mainstream discourse and institutions that respond to violence. In this chapter, I will examine how state power is directly implicated in hiding, flattening, and homogenizing difference in experiences of violence. In order to do so, I focus on the daily, unremarkable practices of the law courts; in particular, I look at how women’s accounts of violence are steam rolled in the courtroom. Background: Feminist Legal Reform and Ambivalence on State Involvement The extent to which the criminal justice system has acknowledged or been responsive to gendered violence is due in large part to the pressure of feminist activists (see Wittner 1997). Nonetheless, as I argued in the introduction to this book, the feminist movement has been ambivalent about the role of the state and its agents in its response to violence. On the one hand, many activists have sought solutions from the government:“In the past 20 years, activists in the U.S. battered women’s movement have argued successfully that the state has an obligation to intervene in personal relationships to protect women from their abusive partners, that it can and should remove violent husbands from their private homes to protect women in their private homes, that the police should arrest husbands for assault, and that the state should prosecute them” (Shepard and Pence 1999, 5). On the other hand, many strands of feminism have treated the government, the courts, the social service sector, and the police with far more distrust (Mills 1999). Even Shepard and Pence comment that “as women seeking refuge in the shelters turned to the state for financial resources or legal protection, the state’s role in reproducing relations of dominance and subordination was repeatedly demonstrated” (1999, 8). They see the courts and state agents failing to act: Spaces of Judgment and Judgments of Space Competing Logics of Violence in Court CHAPTER FIVE 102 s tructur al viole nce “Lawmakers, police officers, judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and social workers consistently failed to use their institutional powers to protect women from further abuse or to sanction men for their violence” (1999, 8; also see Minow 1990). Other feminists (e.g., Bhattacharjee 2002a; Bhavnani and Davis 2000; Smith 2005; Ogden 2005; also see Bumiller 2008) see the state as a direct source of harm to women, especially poor women, immigrant women, and women of color. In an influential article, Linda Mills (1999) comments that the state’s regulation of domestic violence in the United States is “tinged with emotional violence” in a myriad of ways: “[S]uch policies as mandatory arrest, prosecution, and reporting, which have become standard legal fare in the fight against domestic violence and which categorically ignore the battered woman’s perspective, can themselves be forms of abuse. Indeed, I argue that, ironically, the very state interventions designed to eradicate the intimate abuse in battered women’s lives all too often reproduce the emotional abuse of the battering relationship” (554–55). An advocate from the Duluth Project bridges the concerns of the last chapters and this one by discussing how assumptions about domestic violence lead the courts to miss the crucial concrete aspects of women’s lives. (I quote her at length): “We had convinced the judges always to order a pre-sentence investigation before sentencing a person convicted of assaulting a partner or former partner . . . The first pre-sentence investigation I attended really opened my eyes to how little the court system knew about battering. The probation officer asked Carol, the woman I was with, ‘How many times has your husband hit you, kicked you or in some manner physically harmed you in the past three years?’” She responded, “four or five times.” The probation officer kept probing for information to determine if her abuser had committed criminal acts of abuse. The interview lasted twenty minutes. The probation officer ascertained that Carol’s husband physically abused her about once a year, was a weekend drinker and had never been to any kind of counseling . . . He did not understand that Carol’s husband kept her a virtual prisoner in their home with no phone, no transportation, no visitation with friends and no outside activities. He did not discover that Carol’s husband demanded that she have sex with him every day, constantly threatened to take the children away and to kill her if she even looked at another man. Carol was not allowed to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781438443454
Related ISBN
9781438443430
MARC Record
OCLC
817565684
Pages
208
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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