Resisting violence in the shadow of the law: the legal consciousness and legal mobilization of battered women in Phoenix, Arizona and Seattle, Washington
This study compares the legal consciousness and legal mobilization of battered women in two cities (Seattle, Washington and Phoenix, Arizona) with similar laws but different local response to domestic violence. The comparison between a Mobilization Facilitation environment (Seattle) and a Model of Legal Protection environment (Phoenix) allows increased understanding of how local policy implementation affects how people think about their rights, invoke law to one another and decide when to involve formal legal actors in their disputes.Differences in local policy implementation significantly affected both legal consciousness and legal mobilization. When formal legal actors refused to intervene to end domestic violence then women perceived the state's law as illegitimate. In Seattle, where legal mobilization regarding criminal acts of domestic violence is encouraged and facilitated (Mobilization Facilitation), women were more likely to feel sure that the state's law would meaningfully challenge their abusers' private tyrannies. In Phoenix, where the state makes little effort to minimize the risks of mobilizing law or encourage mobilizing (Legal Protection), women were unlikely to feel that the state's law would interrupt the violence they experienced at the hands of their abusers. While Seattle and Phoenix have important differences regarding local response to criminal law, responses to civil law are similar and follow the Model of Legal Protection. Women in each whose primary contacts were with the civil system regarding custody had similar consciousness, seeing the state's law as inescapable, capricious, monstrous and thus illegitimate.Domestic violence reforms enacted over the past 25 years have had uneven impact on battered women, but there is reason to be encouraged. The Seattle case demonstrated the usefulness of advocacy for battered women. The provision of advocacy through community based organizations as well as police, prosecutors and courts encouraged women made legal processes intelligible and meaningful do battered women, and encouraged them to feel they had rights the state would protect and to call on formal legal actors to intervene in abuse. Advocates functioned as insider/outsiders within systems, monitoring the quality of interventions and serving as a reminder of system accountability to battered women.
- Political science