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Type: Thesis
Title: What’s the problem with intimate partner abuse? Exploring the role of problem representations in the criminal law in the UK and Australia
Author: Patrick, Alexandra
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: Adelaide Law School
Abstract: Every criminal offence contains within it a diagnosis of the ‘problem’ to be solved by that offence: its ‘problem representation’. This representation is not the correct definition of the proscribed conduct and what is wrong with it, but one of many possible interpretations. Nevertheless, the problem representation given credence informs the language of an offence, and affects its application. Representations of the nature of criminal acts, and what is wrong with them, inform the message we send to the community about offenders and their behaviour, and the experiences and suffering of victims. It is therefore vital to interrogate our laws to uncover their implicit problem representations, and to challenge those representations which produce undesirable outcomes. This thesis considers the various problem representations of Intimate Partner Abuse (IPA) that are implicit in the language of the criminal law in the UK and Australia, as well as competing representations. It aims to find a representation of IPA which, when vested in a criminal offence, appropriately conveys the experiences and circumstances of victims. Using Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be?’ methodology, I consider how IPA has been described, defined, and discussed by academics and activists, criminal law reformers, and criminal justice officials (such as police, prosecutors and judges) in the UK and Australia. I show how these people have used their positions of influence to shape the construction of criminal law solutions to IPA. I also consider how the language of criminal offences shapes public perceptions of IPA, its perpetrators and victims. In particular, I consider the effect of highlighting or obscuring the gender of victims and perpetrators on how the experience of IPA is portrayed. Finally, I propose an alternative representation of IPA, and consider whether a specific offence of IPA informed by this representation could produce better outcomes for victims. This alternative represents IPA as an abuser’s repeated or continuous exploitation of the victim’s vulnerability to restrict their freedom of action. For a crime as tormenting and destructive as IPA, it is all the more important to be conscious of the impact of problem representations on any solutions offered by the criminal law. It is vital to examine and challenge the problem representations which lodge in criminal offences of IPA, because the way the problem is represented has serious consequences for victims.
Advisor: Naffine, Ngaire
Leader-Elliott, Ian
Dissertation Note: Thesis (M.Phil.) -- University of Adelaide, Adelaide Law School, 2018
Keywords: Intimate partner abuse
domestic violence
family violence
problem representation
criminal law
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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