Dr Emma Forbes: Behind Glass Walls: Tackling Gendered barriers to justice for women experiencing domestic abuse

Dr Emma Forbes will present her research on Scotland’s response to domestic abuse and women’s experiences of the justice process at a session focused on violence against women, as part of the Gender in Public Health and Safety consultation October 18 and 19 in Edinburgh.

This presentation draws on the findings of doctoral research.  It presents a feminist critique of Scotland’s investigation and prosecution of domestic abuse through the lens of tackling domestic abuse as a gendered offence.  It tells two stories: Scotland’s policy and legislative response to this issue and the experience of female victims who report to the police. The apparent sweep of progress on the public stage is juxtaposed with the private struggle of individuals who continue to face barriers.  Drawing on in-depth interviews with women who have experienced domestic abuse and those who support them, the data found that women live behind glass walls where domestic abuse is criminalised publicly, but unrecognised coercively controlling abuse is ongoing throughout the court process.  They confront a process which communicates around prescribed court dates; fails to respond to their emotions; and retraumatises them through an inordinate wait. The interviews are contextualised within a 40-year timeline of Scotland’s policy, legal, social and academic responses to domestic abuse which highlights ongoing gender inequality in the criminal justice response.  Beyond glass walls, there is scope to recognise the complexity and continuum of public awareness and private experience of domestic abuse and to meet the implicit challenges through gendered policies and procedural justice.

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