Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Katherine O'Connor


Spurred by the work of the Battered Women's Movement, domestic violence has been responded to since it emerged as a problem in the 1970s. At first the response was providing places for victims to stay and recover from the violence while also providing opportunities for consciousness raising and empowerment work. As domestic violence became a more recognized problem, policies were created and enacted to end the problem. Through the 1980s and 1990s, changes in federal policies in regards to domestic violence were incorporated. The criminal justice system began incorporating such policies as mandatory arrest and no-drop prosecution policies as well as using batterer intervention programs (BIPs) to provide services to those accused of domestic violence charges.In Virginia, domestic violence advocates, batterer intervention program service providers and members of the criminal justice system worked together to create coordinated community responses with the stated goals of safety for domestic violence victims and accountability for perpetrators of domestic violence. The coordination, however, seemed to be fraught with difficulties, as domestic violence advocates, BIP providers, and the criminal justice system continued to struggle with the implementation of the standards. It seemed that although all three groups were able to agree upon the goals of accountability and safety, there were underlying issues of difference that were not being considered.The participants of this inquiry had congruent understandings of the term domestic violence; however their understandings of the social problem domestic violence were quite different. Because the way a social problem is understood influences policy as it is created, implemented, and experienced, it is important to strive for clarity concerning the social problem to which the policy is responding.This inquiry is an exploration of the multiple understandings of the social problem domestic violence as understood by those who participated in the inquiry. The tentative findings, or lessons learned, are not to be understood as generalizable findings, but as the unique, co-created understandings of the multiple meanings of the social problem domestic violence as understood by the participants and the inquirer.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Social Work Commons