Domestic Violence and Narratives of the State: The Construction of the "Battered Woman" Through Criminal Justice Policy

Amy Leisenring, University of Colorado - Boulder

Kathleen Ferraro (1996) argues that domestic violence "is a political and discursivew space in which emancipatory ideals collide with repressive mechanisms of social control; the legal, familial and social scientific establishments" (77). At the heart of domesti violence discourse rests the image of the "battered woman." Ferraro argues that domestic violence discourse has been centered on a unified construction of "battered woman." In this paper, I will further explore Ferraro's assertion and examine ways in which narratives of the state construct battered women. This will involve an examination of criminal justice policy surrounding domestic violence in the state of Colorado. I will also compare the constructions of battered women in Colorado criminal justice policy with national policy.

Borrwing from Bacchi (1999), I will address the following questions in my examination of domestic violence policy:

--How is the problem represented in current policy? --What presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation? --What effects are produced by this representation? How are subjects consituted within it? What is likely to change? What is likely to stay the same? Who is likely to benefit from this respresentation? --What is left unproblematic in this represenatation? --How would 'responses' differ if the 'problem' were thought about or represented differently?

By examining one expression of domestic violence discourse, I hope this analysis will illuminate ways in which the "battered woman" is socially and legally constructed.

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Updated 05/20/2006