Gender-based violence is more than discrete incidents of physical abuse; but also includes long-standing oppressive practices supported by cultural and religious traditions, and the use of coercive control by individuals and the state.

In patriarchal cultures, sexism and misogyny determine relations of power between men and women, women and women, and men and men that enshrine inequality and support the status quo. Violence is, and has always been, a powerful weapon in the enforcement of gender oppression.

BWJP’s work has focused primarily on one form of violence against women - battering - which we define as the use of coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, and stalking, reinforced by the threat or use of physical and sexual violence, to establish and maintain control over one’s intimate partner. We believe that women have been and are the primary victims of battering as a result of patriarchal cultural values that historically expressly sanctioned or implicitly tolerated violence against women. We understand that violence against women takes different forms depending on cultural norms, and may involve other perpetrators in addition to male partners.

These patterns of abusive behavior are also expressed in same-sex relationships. In addition to the sexist controls created and perpetuated in the larger patriarchal culture, there are ways our society (and the LGBT community) bestows entitlements and control on some people based on various aspects of identity (race, gender expression, ability, immigration status, age, class, etc.) and that this manner of privilege is often used as a means to oppress and maintain control within an abusive relationship. 

Often, the terms battering and domestic violence are used interchangeably. However, the common statutory term: domestic violence is inclusive of cases against male partners, and emphasizes where the abuse occurs: the home. As a result, cases of domestic violence in civil and criminal courts represent a variety of acts, only some of which are cases of battering. The challenge in intervening effectively in these cases is to understand the context in which the violence is occurring so that appropriate action can be taken. In other words, we need to discern who is doing what to whom, with what intent, and who needs protection from whom. This is crucial in family court when decisions regarding custody and visitation are made, as well as in criminal court when attempting to file appropriate charges or craft an appropriate sentence for a defendant who may be a dangerous stalking batterer, a mentally-ill schizophrenic, or a battered woman who has assaulted her abuser.

Therefore, in our view, best practices in civil or criminal justice system responses to domestic violence involve efforts to: 1) identify the context and severity of the violence and attempt to match our interventions accordingly; 2) centralize and maximize the protection of victims and children from further abuse or harm; 3) reduce any disparities in treatment or case outcomes related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, class, disability or age; and, 4) build solid coordination among the agencies involved and a strong system of accountability to collectively defined goals.