Constructing Women who Experience Male Violence: Criminal Legal Discourse and Individual Experiences

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between how women who experience violence from a male partner construct themselves, and how criminal legal discourse constructs female victims of violence. It is argued that in both arenas, women are constructed according to norms which emanate from a discourse of conventional femininity which operates together with a practice of shame. Utilising empirical data gained from qualitative interviews with women who experienced male violence, the article contends that the construction of the female victim of violence in criminal legal discourses as imbued with stereotypical ‘feminine’ characteristics such as passivity and weakness, may influence these women’s own construction and understanding of themselves. The existence of a practice of shame further consolidates the self-regulation of the women themselves to these norms of femininity. This construction is posited to be problematic as the experiences of women of male violence rarely ‘fit’ within these explanations. The article contends that in order to better understand women’s experiences of male violence; both criminal legal and individual women’s discourses need to be read in terms of the power, knowledge and effects which they exert upon individual women. It is argued that this alternative reading of these discourses has the potential for transformation as they are invested in the subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-142
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Volume29
Issue number2
Early online date10 Sep 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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Keywords

  • Conventional femininity
  • Criminal law
  • Discourse
  • Knowledge
  • Normalisation
  • Power
  • Practice of shame
  • Strength
  • Methodology
  • Weakness
  • Violence

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