Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Abstract

The role of identity-based stereotypes about perpetrators in domestic violence cases has not received much attention in legal scholarship, which has instead focused on the identities of victims. However, stereotypes governing who is a recognizable victim (e.g., that victims are white, middle-class, passive, and dependent women in heterosexual relationships) cannot by themselves explain why nonconforming victims are sometimes successful in family court cases and other, more “perfect” victims are not. Drawing on intersectionality theory, which studies the ways experiences are shaped by the interaction of multiple identity categories, I argue that understanding this phenomenon requires a relational analysis that examines the “other side”: the perpetrator, recognition of whom is governed by intersecting identity stereotypes that parallel those affecting victims. Part II introduces two illustrative domestic violence cases and shows the ways in which conventional approaches to intersectional analysis of victims’ experiences cannot explain why unconventional victims sometimes win their cases while others do not. Part III proposes extending intersectionality theory on domestic violence with insights from legal scholarship on the intersectionality of heterosexual men of color and performance theory in order to allow for consideration of how identity is enacted by both victims and perpetrators in court. This Part also considers issues of relative privilege and subordination that arise from an analysis that includes perpetrators as well as victims. Part IV examines the methodological implications of an extended intersectional frame, and shows how a more comparative, intercategorical approach to intersectional method supports an analysis that is at once more particularized and more expansive in its explanatory power.

Publication Citation

16 J. Gender, Race & Justice 531 (2013).