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Redefining Harm, Reimagining Remedies and Reclaiming Domestic Violence Law
U.C. Davis L. Rev. (2008)
  • Margaret E Johnson
Women subjected to domestic violence are disserved by the civil domestic violence laws that should effectively address and redress their harms. The Civil Protective Order [CPO] laws should remedy all domestic abuse and not solely physical violence or criminal acts. All forms of abuse, including psychological, emotional, economic and physical abuse, cause severe emotional distress, physical harm, isolation, sustained fear, intimidation, poverty, degradation, humiliation, and coerced loss of autonomy. Moreover, all abuse is interrelated, because, as researchers have demonstrated, most domestic violence is the fundamental operation of systemic oppression through the exertion of power and control. Given the effectiveness of CPOs in rebalancing the power in a relationship and decreasing abuse, this remedy should be available to all women subjected to domestic violence. This article proposes recrafting the civil law to provide a remedy for all harms of domestic violence and its operation of systemic power and control over women. Re-centering the narrative of domestic violence on this oppression rather than merely physical violence and criminal acts underscores the critical role of women’s agency and autonomy in legally remedying domestic violence, a role that is too often ignored by outside actors who choose to “save” women’s lives rather than effectuate women’s choices around the abuse in their relationships.
  • domestic violence,
  • feminist legal theory,
  • women,
  • gender,
  • civil protective order,
  • civil law,
  • equality
Publication Date
August 27, 2008
Citation Information
42 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1107 (2009)