Intimate partner violence: Towards a sociological understanding
Aug 06, 2009
Finally the Domestic Violence Act as an intervention by the criminal justice system is based on an adversarial system, where victims often have to defend themselves within the court setting, since perpetrators have the opportunity to make representations and place the victims under cross examination. The credibility of victims can therefore be broken down. Therefore there is the possibility that the woman who might need the protection order the most, will not get one granted due to her credibility being brought into question.
Furthermore the adversarial system does not make provision for reconciliation or a means to resolve conflicts. It does not attempt to deal with the root causes of intimate partner violence and is therefore only a short term solution. The Domestic Violence Act is often used as one of the founding steps in a separation and divorce process. There are no provisions for reconciliation if the parties decide to follow this route. Therefore the Domestic Violence Act could in fact escalate conflict within the family and could in fact become a foundation for further violence within the relationship, due to its principle of separation.
The question therefore arises: “Is there any other means that the conflict can be resolved and reconciliation achieved, if both the perpetrator and the victim decide that their love for each other is based upon a commitment to each other, a distinct friendship and a shared passion for each other?” The answer to this question lies within the possibility of using a restorative justice intervention.
The restorative justice intervention differs from the current criminal justice system essentially in that it attempts to reconcile parties, rather than dividing through constructing them as adversaries. Therefore conflict is resolved through both parties working together collaboratively in bringing about joint decisions in a mediated manner. Should the decision be to separate, this joint decision is mediated and negotiated within the process. Therefore reconciliation is not the primary or predetermined objective of restorative justice interventions. This paper argues that restorative justice interventions can change the system of intimate partner violence.
The primary intervention used within the intimate partner violence setting is termed victim offender conferencing (VOC). Here the perpetrator or abuser, the victim or the abused and a mediator come together after a preparatory phase to discuss the incident. The VOC intervention is based on three principles; namely recognising injustice, restoring equity and addressing future intentions (Claasen 1996).