The myths our legal system buys into about perpetrators of domestic violence

The myths our legal system buys into about perpetrators of domestic violence thumbnail

One of the most persistent and dangerous myths of domestic violence is that the perpetrators are good men who made ONE bad choice because their wife pushed them too far. It’s a neat little way of excusing male violence and rather unsubtly hinting that the female victims were the problem all along.

A recent study into judiciary sentencing of domestic violence perpetrators shows this myth has an alarming level of acceptance at even the highest levels of our legal system. The study, published in the latest edition of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, looked at judges’ sentencing remarks for cases of both men and women who had murdered their domestic partners between 2002 and 2010 in Victoria and New South Wales.

Researchers Guy Hall, Marion Whittle and Courtney Field examined a total of 72 cases. In 67 cases, the offender was male, while five cases involved female offenders. In all but two cases, the presiding judge was male.

The researchers found that when it came to sentencing male offenders, the judges went out of their way to present the murderers as essentially good blokes who had gone off the rails. For example, in sentencing remarks evaluating the offenders’ characters, the judges made frequent mention of the men’s involvement in the community and their work ethic.

“Your employer regards you as an outstanding employee and you were popular in the workplace. Your employer speaks highly of your work ethic,” said one judge.

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