Criminalization as a Solution to Abuse

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter

Organizational Units

Sturm College of Law


Animal abuse, Domestic violence abuse, Intimate partner violence, IPV, Social norm change


This chapter offers reflections from the point of view of an anti-domestic violence activist, attorney and legal scholar on several key parallels between the trajectory of the battered women’s movement and the animal rights movement. The animal rights movement appears to be relying increasingly on criminalization of abuse as a strategy to decrease abuse, much like the anti-domestic violence movement did a couple of decades earlier. The chapter argues that a number of unintended, and possibly irreversible, consequences in the anti-domestic violence movement should give serious pause to the direction of animal rights activists’ current course. These are the crowding out of community-based solutions and necessary social services to keep victims safe; the harms – including increased rather than decreased danger to victims - that mandatory arrest has caused; the problem of police as perpetrators of abuse, both human and animal; and the erosion of activists’ initial vision and goals for structural change. Overlaying all of these is a larger, deeply troublesome parallel: the indifference of both movement’s white leadership to the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. The chapter concludes with regrets about relying on law, and particularly criminal law, as a solution to the problem of abuse.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.