‘Justice 21’ 1 - Law & Society 0: How the Internet Provides Detailed Information and Public Knowledge on Domestic Violence...

Mathieu Deflem
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This is a copy of a note published in Pro Bono, the Newsletter of the SSSP Law & Society Division, Fall 2003. It is also available in PDF format.

Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 2003. "‘Justice 21’ 1 - Law & Society 0: How the Internet Provides Detailed Information and Public Knowledge on Domestic Violence..." Pro Bono, Newsletter of the SSSP Law & Society Division 10(1):12.

I inform the membership of our Division’s experience with the ‘Justice 21’ project. Last year, we were told that ‘Justice 21’ was “designed to inform the public-at-large about the nation’s most pressing social problems and to propose a public policy response to those problems... This project will reaffirm the commitment of SSSP to social justice...”

After consultation with the Law & Society membership, a statement was drafted on behalf of the Division, entitled ‘Domestic Violence in the United States: Current Research and New Directions.’ The proposal was written on the basis of an idea conceived by Alesha Durfee (University of Washington), reviewed by Stacy Burns (Loyola Marymount University), Mathieu Deflem (University of South Carolina), Otis Grant (Indiana University at South Bend), and Allison Carey (Temple University). In short, our proposal stated that domestic violence is “one of the most pressing social problems faced by families in the United States. Because of the prevalence of domestic violence, and the serious consequences that this violence has for victims, their families, and American society as a whole,... [t]he chapter we propose to write for the Justice 21 project...would provide an overview of current social science research regarding the prevalence of domestic violence, the demographics of the population most impacted by domestic violence, discuss some of the consequences of domestic violence on families and children, and outline current community and governmental responses to domestic violence. We will then discuss new directions for social science research on domestic violence... This information may be used to challenge beliefs about domestic violence victims, including victims and abusers... [T]he chapter will conclude by identifying some of the structural barriers that often prevent victims from leaving violent relationships, and then discuss some of the ways in which these barriers might be removed...”

Our Division initially received no response to this proposal. When we contacted one of the ‘Justice 21’ organizers a few weeks ago, we received an apology that our proposal was not responded to. Additionally, we were informed of the following: “Our committee did receive one other proposal on domestic violence. As a group, we view this topic as extremely important, but one that has received considerable public and political attention. There are numerous web based sources that provide detailed information on the topics listed in this proposal... [W]e had this discussion previously and decided to focus our limited space on topics on which public knowledge is more limited and difficult to access.”

In other words, our proposal was not reviewed by the ‘Justice 21’ committee, but a proposal on the same issue from another Division was and was judged to deal with a topic on which public knowledge is not limited and not difficult to access, especially because of the internet.

Following this advice, I performed a search for ‘domestic violence’ on Google. It resulted in 1,850,000 hits (09/07/2003). Without generalizing on the connections between quantity and quality, these webpages included information that is very varied in nature, such as pages from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence; a page on ‘Equal Opportunity Domestic Violence’ that boasts that “Feminazis gonna hate this one;” a page with jokes, the punchline to one of which is that a wife who tells her husband to do something says: “After the first day I saw nothing. After the second day I saw nothing. But after the third day I could see a little bit out of my left eye”; and a porn site that states that “domestic violence sucks it”.

Division members are invited to respond to this situation. Please email your reactions to the Division Chair (...).

by Mathieu Deflem, Division Chair

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