June 10, 2019 Feature

Introduction: How Legal Systems Continue to Fail Victims of Domestic Violence: Barriers, Challenges, and Solutions

Kelly Alison Behre

Domestic violence continues to exact a heavy toll on our country. In spite of a growing body of law developed in the past three decades to respond to domestic violence, domestic violence rates remain high. As family law lawyers and judges, it is imperative that we continue to educate ourselves about intimate partner violence and recognize the ways in which victims’ interaction with legal systems leads to both positive and negative outcomes. We should engage with social science to better inform our practice and decisions with regard to credibility determinations and safety planning. We should critically think about the barriers legal systems may create that limit access for some domestic violence victims, particularly women of color and LGBT victims, to obtain help, and we should work to dismantle those barriers. We should listen to victims of domestic violence and expand legal options, such as restorative justice programming and campus adjudication processes, that may better meet their goals. We must increase awareness of how abusers exploit legal systems as a coercive control tactic by using family, immigration, child dependency, and criminal court systems to harass their victims. We should use our experience and knowledge to help promote legislative policy that fixes federal, state, and tribal loopholes in order to increase safety for victims of intimate partner violence and their children.

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