Criminal and civil justice responses to domestic violence have proven to be imperfect tools that respond to past violence, but do not succeeded in preventing violence. Anti-essentialist feminist scholarship has also surfaced ways in which the criminal justice system can be an autonomy-stripping, brutal force in the lives of domestic violence survivors. Recent research reveals the young age at which intimate partner violence begins, with studies showing that one in three teenage girls experiences physical violence in a dating relationship, but youth are unlikely to turn to the criminal justice system for help and multiple reasons counsel against increasing rates of criminal justice involvement for youth.

In hopes of actualizing the legislative intent of domestic violence laws to prevent family violence, this essay examines the societal forces that permit domestic violence and what changes must occur to achieve nonviolence, beginning with youth. The essay surveys current social science literature about the causes of domestic violence and presents areas for further study to inform legal and social prevention and intervention efforts. It also evaluates how the domestic violence and child protection movements have developed separately and suggests ways that the often-competing agendas could be reconciled as part of a broader anti-family violence agenda.


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