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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78531 Find in a Library
Title: Violence Against Wives - The Criminal Law in Retreat?
Journal: Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly  Volume:31  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1980)  Pages:35-57
Author(s): C Boyle
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 23
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This British article discusses the role of the British and Northern Ireland criminal law in relation to wife abuse in three specific contexts: marital rape, compellability of spouses, and the defense of provocation. It also examines both the procedural and substantive content of the law to assess if domestic violence is becoming increasingly decriminalized.
Abstract: A growing reluctance to apply certain aspects of the criminal law to the domestic sphere may in the future inhibit development of the law to afford adequate protection to the abused wife. Several reasons exist for this situation. First, there needs to be public acceptance that the criminal law should interfere in domestic abuse and assault situations. However, not all the problems are caused by this lack of acceptance. There are obvious inherent difficulties in enforcing the law inside the home. But these difficulties are exacerbated by an unwillingness on the part of human (service) agencies to maximize the impact of the substantive law, which is adequate except in the case of rape. Moreover, abused wives would benefit from immediate practical and emotional help, which is currently being emphasized more than punishment for their husbands. Another reason is that if domestic violence is categorized as 'private,' a general liberal trend exists toward not interfering via the criminal law in private acts. Finally, when a man attacks his own wife the law of assault is not rigorously enforced across the board, and the law does not even recognize the reality of marital rape. The article argues that the criminal law should be consistent in substance and be enforced consistently in order to demonstrate recognition of the seriousness and validity of wife abuse. Most importantly, the criminal law should not tolerate either substantively, or in practice, invidious and indefensible distinctions between different classes of victim (i.e., that a wife raped by her husband is less of a victim than a woman raped by a stranger). A total of 75 footnotes are included. (Author summary modified)
Index Term(s): Battered wives; Criminal codes; Decriminalization; Domestic assault; Female victims; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Northern Ireland; Spousal Rape; Victim-offender relationships
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