What does feminism have to say about domestic violence death reviews?

Elizabeth Sheehy

This presentation argues that we cannot measure the success of Domestic Violence Death Review Committees (DVDRCs), or the optimal forms and specific rules that ought to govern DVDRCs, without resort to feminist knowledge and practice. This reflection first provides a brief look at the role of feminist advocacy in preparing the groundwork for DVDRCs in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It then comments on the difficulties of assessing the work of DVDRCs in terms of “success” and the consequent need to use feminism as a lens through which to assess the potential of DVDRCs. This presentation uses available reports and secondary literature to propose best practices for feminist work in DVDRCs to advance our goal of stopping violent men and saving women’s lives and upholding their freedom. It concludes by calling for a more transparent dialogue on DVDRCs lest these processes become instruments of “impression management”, used by governments to ease the political pressures to respond to the crisis of domestic violence deaths without actually having to resource or pursue the major systemic and cultural shifts needed to end men’s violence against women and its worst consequences.

Biography

ELIZABETH SHEEHY, LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. (Honoris causa), F.R.S.C., is Vice Dean Research and Full Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. She teaches Criminal Law and Procedure, Sexual Assault Law, and Defending Battered Women on Trial. She was co-counsel for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in its intervention in R v JA (no “advance consent” to sexual assault) (2011 SCC 28) and has participated in the legal work for many ground-breaking cases including the Jane Doe litigation (ONCJ 1998) and the legal intervention by Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in Mooney v AG of BC (BCCA 2004). Her research record includes her most recent books: the edited collection Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012) (Available on Open Access) and Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014), which was awarded the David Walter Mundell Medal 2014 for fine legal writing, by the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.

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