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When Two Fields Collide: An Examination of the Assumptions of Social Science Research and Law Within the Domain of Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse: A Review Journal Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2003 Pages: 3-21
Paula Barata; Charlene Y. Senn
Date Published
January 2003
19 pages
This article examines feminist critiques of both social science research and the criminal justice system by examining the implications of both of these domains on victims of domestic violence.
The authors claim that when criminal justice policy is informed by social science research, there is the possibility of harm to the victims. This is the case when social science research fails to view the problem of domestic violence from all perspectives. Unintended harm may result from applying faulty assumptions to both research and to law. The authors offer a review of the major feminist critiques of both social science research and the law. They show how many of the critiques apply to both fields, such as the critique that objectivity in research and in practice is both possible and desirable and the critique that both fields were founded upon the experiences of men, not women. The authors then illustrate how unintended harm may result from applying social science research to criminal justice policy. They offer the example of mandatory arrest in instances of domestic violence to show how faulty research leads to faulty policies. The unintended consequences of mandatory arrest include an increase in the number of women who are arrested for assault, even when those women are victims of domestic violence. The authors conclude by asserting that social science research should inform policymaking only when feminist critiques are taken seriously and research is careful to take into account the experiences of victims from their own perspectives. References