Family Violence as State Crime: A new framework for theory, practice, and remedy
AuthorRose, Evelyn Willow
AffiliationSchool of Social and Political Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-01-13.
© 2019 Evelyn Willow Rose
Family violence is the most prevalent form of violence worldwide, and is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women and children. In recent years, Australia has been a leader in the global movement to give this problem the attention it deserves, including through the establishment of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. Yet in both mainstream and academic discourse, family violence continues to be understood through a narrow lens: framed as a problem of individual perpetrators and harmful cultural norms and attitudes. In these accounts, the historical, structural, and institutional dimensions of male violence in the family remain largely obscured. The notion of institutional or state complicity in family violence has received inadequate attention, and family violence has not been comprehensively investigated, identified, or theorised as a state crime. Through a transdisciplinary approach to data analysis and theory-building, this study integrates and extends material from diverse fields including criminology, state crime, transitional justice, international law, and radical feminist politics, in order to generate new insights and build new theory around state crime and family violence. The central argument of this thesis is that family violence constitutes a state crime, and towards this central argument, I offer a number of related contributions. I contribute to the development of state crime methodologies by constructing an analytical framework for identifying state complicity through the operation of state institutions. I then demonstrate the application of this framework to identify state complicity in family violence through three state institutions in Australia and comparable international contexts: the criminal justice system, family law, and state-based social services. Through examining family violence policy, practice, and ideology in the operation of these institutions, I identify state complicity in family violence across the spectrum of state criminality: ranging from passive bystander to active agent, participant and direct perpetrator. My central contribution is a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding family violence as state crime. Through a unified multi-component feminist model, I propose a way of conceptualising the complementary patriarchal harms that, together, position family violence as a state crime. Specifically, the framework identifies and theorises the state structural and state institutional dimensions of family violence which function in a mutually-reinforcing manner to produce and reproduce the harm. Based on this framework, I then reflect on the implications that emerge from conceptualising family violence as a state crime. Through a diverse toolkit for family violence state crime justice, I offer a reconsidered approach to addressing the harm by drawing on insights from transitional justice and redress frameworks for other state crimes. The investigative, acknowledgement, accountability, remedy, and prevention measures I propose aim to address family violence more thoroughly by accounting for the central role of states and institutions in family violence. Ultimately, I argue that genuine progress in addressing family violence can only be achieved by acknowledging the state’s responsibility for the harm. Understanding family violence through a state crime lens and recognising its embeddedness in the historical, structural, and institutional landscape then enables the imagination and design of more appropriate responses to the problem.
Keywordsfamily violence; domestic violence; intimate partner violence; child abuse; male violence; violence against women and children; state crime; international law; crimes against humanity; transitional justice; transformative justice
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