Law | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Millions of women and men face the pain and trauma of domestic or intimate partner violence each year. The issues of domestic violence and violence against women have only recently come into the public eye and begun to be taken on by social advocacy groups and addressed by federal legislation. Given its history of being viewed as a private family matter, domestic violence can be difficult to understand, define, and address from a legislative and criminal justice standpoint. More than twenty years after the landmark passing of the Violence Against Women Act, there are still many misconceptions about domestic violence and its victims. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 was the first policy to address violence against women and domestic violence at the federal level (Messing, Ward-Lasher, Thaller, & Bagwell-Gray, 2015), and it has been revised several times since its initial passing to reflect the growing understanding of the scope and impact of these types of violence. Still, policies that aim to tackle such a complex and widespread issue are bound to face many challenges as they attempt to encapsulate and remain sensitive to the myriad aspects of the issue in one comprehensive policy. In this policy analysis, I am interested in considering how the problem of domestic violence is currently defined and how this is reflected in existing legislation. Additionally, I will be examining how existing policies set out to address the problem of domestic violence, and how effectively they are accomplishing this. My research is motivated by an interest in understanding not only what policies currently exist, but what impact these policies are having on the actual experiences of those who have faced domestic violence.