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"Hitting is Not Manly": Domestic Violence Court and the Re-Imagination of the Patriarchal State

NCJ Number
Gender & Society Volume: 20 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 781-804
Rekha Mirchandani
Date Published
December 2006
24 pages
This case study of a Salt Lake City, UT domestic violence court analyzes the ways in which the court has transformed the traditionally male-dominated State.
The author suggests that there is a need for new theoretical foundations that are capable of describing positive State policies. The author also advises that in order to better conceptualize the potentially positive relations that are now possible among the State, social movements, and social change, feminist scholars should examine the work of Jurgen Habermas. The analysis indicates that the Salt Lake domestic violence court has succeeded in transforming a once male-dominated State institution into a feminist regime committed to individual and social change. In this instance, the State responded to a social movement in ways that incorporated the movement’s perspectives. The Salt Lake City domestic violence court has even incorporated the battered women’s perspective on the patriarchal origins of domestic violence. In contrast to the historical argument espoused by traditional courts of the past that battered women must have done something to provoke the attack, the key participants in the domestic violence court in Salt Lake City are determined to hold the offender responsible for his violence. The result is that the Salt Lake City domestic violence court has transformed the State’s hierarchical structures and adversary culture through a consensus approach to solving cases. The findings are consistent with those of feminist historians who discovered significant social movement influence on programs of the New Deal. The case study methodology involved exploring the court stakeholders’ justifications for and understandings of the court. Newspaper articles regarding the inception and functioning of the domestic violence court were drawn from the major local newspaper and audiotapes of the Utah legislative debates on domestic violence in 1990 and 1996 were reviewed. Interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and weekly observations were made of the courtroom for a period of 9 months. Future research should focus on the effectiveness of domestic violence court interventions. References


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