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date: 13 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines the growing uncertainty among feminist scholars in addressing sexual violence through criminal justice approaches. This uncertainty emerges in response to the negative consequences of criminalization and the failure of reforms to counteract the perpetuation of rape myths and more generally to transform the culture of violence. These critiques suggest that the distinctively “American model” for addressing violence against women is in need of reassessment. A renewed effort to address sexual violence requires reflection about the social, political, and legal construction of rape and woman battering. Future research will benefit from moving away from a focus on the outcome of criminal justice decision making for individual victims and perpetrators and the failure to close the “justice gap” to asking a broader question about the connection between sexual violence and gender inequality. The essay suggests that efforts to address sexual violence should consider more fully the political context of women’s struggles and the role of the state in victim’s lives.

Keywords: domestic violence, rape, feminist reform, American model, inequality, criminalization, justice gap, rape myths

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