Preliminary Findings on Battered Women's Agency in Their Negotiations With the Criminal Justice System

Amy Leisenring, University of Colorado - Boulder

ABSTRACT
A recent approach in feminist scholarship involves the notion of agency, which examines how forces such as power and resistance work in women's everyday lives. Acknowledging that women's experiences and activities are often limited by unequal power relations, researchers from this perspective attempt to determine how--and to what extent--women are able to actively and knowledgeably resist power structures and construct their own paths of action. This paper will constitute an application of this approach to battered women. I will present preliminary findings of in-depth interviews with 30 women who have been involved with the court system as victims in misdemeanor domestic violence cases. This paper will explore how the criminal justice system's responses to domestic violence impact battered women's agency. I will examine how battered women are able to move beyond the role of "victim" and employ strategies to make the system work best for them. I will also explore the extent to which battered women's voices and decisions are heard and respected (or ignored and limited) by the criminal justice system. Finally, I will examine how battered women are able to confront and resist restrictive criminal justice policies and/or stereotypical depictions of themselves.

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Updated 05/20/2006