Source: (2005) International Journal of Law in Context. 1(3):215-235.

Victims of controlling domestic violence who also have family law issues continue to have their safety compromised and to suffer the abusive use of the legal system by perpetrators. A range of conditions contribute to this systemic problem, including the fragmentation of the legal ‘system’ faced by victims, and the emphasis giving to contact with fathers and to private dispute resolution. At a more abstract level, unwillingness to look at past conduct and to attribute fault in family law proceedings has lead to a failure to pay attention to issues of justice in family law. The possibilities for the use of restorative justice in these cases are explored. It is argued that there are considerable dangers, particularly generic model of restorative justice. There is, however, some potential in restorative justice processes which are carefully designed for the domestic violence context In particular, such processes offer the potential to extent an empowering ‘justice’ rather than a ‘dispute resolution’ frame to a wider range of cases and to overcome the current fragmentation of the legal system. It is argued than our concern should be with how to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence, rather than with the good of restorative justice in theory. In addition, we must continue to work on improvements to the formal legal system as alternatives to restorative justice. ‘…unless the first and most formative example of adult interaction usually experienced by children is one of justice and reciprocity, rather than one of domination and manipulation or of unequal altruism and one-sided self-sacrifice and unless they themselves are treated with concern and respect, they are likely to be considerably hindered in becoming people who are guided by principles of justice.’ (Okin, 1989, p.17) ‘Women don’t make the distinction [between criminal and family], and the system does not make the connection…’ (Lund and Dodd, 2003.p.2)