Skip to main content
Prosecuting Domestic Violence: A Philosophical Analysis
  • Michelle Dempsey, Villanova University School of Law

The main question which motivates the inquiry undertaken in this book is: what should public prosecutors do when victims withdraw support for domestic violence prosecutions? The answer defended herein can be summarized as follows: within the realm of justified (permissible) action, prosecutors should respond effectively; which is to say that, ceteris paribus, domestic-violence prosecutors should respond as feminists. This claim is intended as a provocative formulation of the proposition that domestic violence prosecutors should act for reasons generated by the value of reconstituting their states (and communities) as less patriarchal. This book defends that claim in two steps: first, it sets out a general theory of prosecutorial practical reasoning and second, it considers the prosecution of domestic-violence offences in particular. Along the way, this book provides an original account of the nature of prosecutorial action, the values that can be realized through such action, and the relationship between these values and the practical reasoning of criminal prosecutors. Moreover, it provides analyses of two key concepts, domestic violence and patriarchy, and explains the relevance of the latter to a proper understanding of the former. The book then puts the preceding insights to work in answering the motivating question stated above, providing answers both in terms of what prosecutors would be justified in doing and what prosecutors should do in order to be effective. Chapter 9 applies this general framework in addressing the rights and duties of domestic violence victims to participate in criminal prosecutions. In the final chapter, the book examines and responds to some general objections that might be raised to the arguments herein, ultimately defending the role of the domestic-violence prosecutor-as-feminist.

  • Domestic Violence,
  • Prosecution,
  • Feminism,
  • Philosophical Analysis
Publication Date
Oxford University Press
Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice
Citation Information
Michelle Dempsey. Prosecuting Domestic Violence: A Philosophical Analysis. (2009)
Available at: