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Criminal Justice System's Response to Battering: Understanding the Problem, Forging the Solutions

NCJ Number
Washington Law Review Volume: 60 Issue: 2 Dated: (1985) Pages: 267-329
K Waits
Date Published
63 pages
This article examines the nature and extent of wife abuse in America, profiles the battered wife and abusing spouse, assesses the current criminal justice response to wife abuse, and proposes legislative changes to improve the criminal justice response.
The documentation of the nature and extent of wife abuse shows the problem's seriousness and the urgent need for solutions. A review of the problem at the individual level focuses on the battered woman, the batterer, the battering relationship, and the effects of the abuse on the couple's children. After noting prevalent rationalizations for restraining criminal justice intervention in wife abuse, the article refutes these rationalizations in arguing for a more effective criminal justice response to wife abuse. A discussion of the appropriate goals of a legal program to reduce battering addresses protection of the victim and deterring the batterer, with the reconciliation of the spouses deemed an inappropriate criminal justice goal. The article concludes with an examination of the present state of the law and the changes required for an effective criminal justice response. Recommended statutory modifications encompass the mandatory arrest of batterers, guidelines for the pretrial diversion of abusers to counseling, and the increased sentencing of convicted abusers. Legislatures should also establish standards of training in domestic violence suitable for all criminal justice professional involved in the processing of such cases. 350 footnotes.