William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


This article analyzes the conceptual structure of domestic violence and critiques various influential accounts of domestic violence operating in the criminal justice system, legal and sociological academia, and the domestic violence advocacy community. Part I presents a preliminary philosophical analysis of domestic violence with the goal of furthering our understanding of the correct use of this concept. This analysis centers around three key elements of domestic violence: violence, domesticity, and structural inequality. Part II develops an explanatory model of domestic violence based upon these key elements. Part III examines and critiques four principal accounts of domestic violence, each of which reflects the conflicting ways in which the concept of domestic violence is used in the language and methodology of the criminal justice, academic, and advocacy communities. Finally this article endorses an account of domestic violence that roughly corresponds to the one employed in the recent work of sociologist Michael Johnson.