Leigh Goodmark Rethinks Approaches to Domestic Violence in New Book

Leigh Goodmark Posing at Maryland Carey Law

At the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Professor Leigh Goodmark is at the vanguard of rethinking our approach to intimate partner violence. In her recent book, “Decriminalizing Domestic Violence: A balanced policy approach to intimate partner violence,” she provides a policy approach to intimate partner violence that relies less on the criminal legal system and more on economics, public health, and community.

“The criminal legal system is not stopping the problem of intimate partner violence, and we need to think about what will.” Goodmark continues: “Rates of domestic violence dropped the same amount as the overall crime rate between 1994 and 2000, and dropped less than the overall crime rate between 2000 and 2010, while at the same time the criminal legal system received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.  What that suggests to me is that the funding wasn’t making a significant difference in those rates.”

According to Goodmark, a substantial shortcoming of the criminal system’s approach to intimate partner violence is the failure to address the underlying causes of intimate partner violence or the real needs of victims of violence.  One way to focus more closely on victim’s needs is through restorative justice.

She explains: “There are a lot of people around the country who are thinking about what justice really means to people who have been victims of intimate partner violence and how to meet the variety of justice needs these people express. These needs can be an income, an apology, community support, or somebody to take their children to school while they work. Those are the kinds of things that a restorative justice approach can give you.”

Goodmark acknowledges that the criminal justice system will always have an important role in some cases of intimate partner violence, but believes that it should play a diminished role in the overall policy response. The victims of intimate partner violence, she contends, should be afforded more options than to either invoke the criminal justice system or not report violence they have suffered.

As the Founding Director of Maryland Carey Law’s Gender Violence Clinic, Goodmark is able to explore the practical application and outcomes of her theoretical approach to intimate partner violence. “There is a fantastic atmosphere for producing cutting edge research at Maryland Carey Law,” she says, “and there is an intellectual discourse that happens here that really helps to shape your ideas in powerful ways.”

“Decriminalizing Domestic Violence: A Balanced Policy Approach to Intimate Partner Violence” is available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover format from the University of California Press

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