Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Spring 4-13-2004

Abstract

Sine the 1970s when the battered women’s movement brought increased public attention to the issue of woman battering, a set of domestic violence discourses have emerged. These discourses have been influenced by a variety of social institutions. Through such discourses, the “battered woman” has been represented in specific ways. In this dissertation, I draw from discourse analysis, symbolic interactionism, poststructuralism, and feminist theory in order to explore the relationship between discourse, subjectivity, and the criminalization of domestic violence. Through an examination of current criminal justice domestic violence policy, interviews with prosecutors who work with domestic violence cases and interviews with women who have experienced violence in the context of an intimate relationship, I examine how domestic violence discourses: (1) re(present) victims of woman battering; (2) influence the interpretive processes of both criminal justice system professionals and battered women in their interactions with one another; and (3) situate and mediate the experiences of both criminal justice system professionals and battered women. I demonstrate that mainstream representations of abused women both enable and limit the self-constructions and presentations of battered women and ultimately impact the women’s experiences, particularly in the context of the criminal justice system. However, as I illustrate, despite being constrained by the institutional power of the criminal justice system, battered women are never completely powerless and are able to engage in acts of agency and resistance.

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