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Safety & Justice for All: Examining the Relationship Between the Women's Anti-Violence Movement and the Criminal Legal System

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages
This document analyzes the response of the criminal justice system to violence against women and strives to build ideas for innovative strategies that reach beyond criminal justice.
While enormous strides have been made in protecting women from violence at the hands of their intimate partners, the strategies and interventions used by the criminal justice system have had mixed success in preventing violence against women. As such, this document seeks to explore some of the criminal legal strategies employed to address violence against women in an effort to stimulate new ideas for violence prevention. One of the main criticisms of the criminal justice system response to domestic violence is that once the system intervenes, the women lose control of the situation. Prosecution of the offender tends to happen regardless of the woman’s wishes and, in some cases, the women victims are actually arrested themselves. The document discusses over-reliance on the criminal legal system and provides a historical context of how laws concerning violence against women, and domestic violence in particular, evolved. Next, research data concerning the effectiveness of violence against women prevention strategies are presented. Research results on the effectiveness of mandatory arrest policies are mixed, with some revealing that the effectiveness of mandatory arrest policies may vary by race. Some of the consequences of an over-reliance on criminal legal strategies are discussed, including the criminalization of poor women and women of color and the loss of power within communities. The next section turns to an examination of possible alternatives to criminal legal responses to violence against women, with a focus on grassroots, community responses. Finally, the document offers some overarching questions and issues that must be considered in an effort to move forward with new and innovative strategies to help combat violence against women. Notes, references