Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Domestic [State] Violence: An Analysis of Town of Castle Rock v Gonzales and Its Implications for Women's Citizenship and State Power
by Cásarez, Rebecca, M.A., The George Washington University, 2018, 79; 10635412
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis uses a specific domestic violence case ( Town of Castle Rock v Gonzales) to examine how domestic violence is currently constructed and addressed in the American legal system. In Town of Castle Rock v Gonzales (2005) the Supreme Court denied a domestic violence victim the opportunity to sue a police department for failure to enforce a restraining order. The Supreme Court’s decision, which was based on a problematic notion of property, as well as the nature of mandatory arrest statutes, has had lasting implications for domestic violence victims and advocacy.

This thesis examines the continuing impact of Castle Rock, and argues that this ruling reveals profound inadequacies in the ways that domestic violence is handled by the American legal system. Castle Rock’s ruling shows the challenges, limits and constraints of the current legal and criminal framework for grappling with domestic violence. Additionally, beyond just implications for domestic violence victims and advocacy, this case also illuminates troubling underlying conception of women as citizens, and their relationship with property. Property, and what constitutes a property interest, formed the core of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and due to the long history of property and gender, and property and citizenship, the inability of the Court to find a property interest in a restraining order raises troubling ideas regarding women as citizens. Finally, Castle Rock’s impact extends beyond just domestic violence, as the Court’s unwillingness to hold police departments accountable underlines the importance of appropriate ways to limit state power, or hold state actors responsible for their actions (or lack thereof).

Castle Rock was a disturbing holding that ignored the context of gender inequality and other structural inequalities that influenced the case. More than a dozen years later, the problem of the state’s duty to protect, and lack of options to seek redress when the state fails to do so, remains. Even though protective orders and criminal prosecution are flawed approaches to solving the problem of domestic violence, a reversal of Castle Rock would not only provide the promise of justice for domestic violence victims, but would represent a demonstrated interest in holding state actors responsible for their actions against citizens.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Collina, Sara, Moshenberg, Daniel
Commitee: Riedner, Rachel
School: The George Washington University
Department: Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 57/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Law, Womens studies, Political science
Keywords: Domestic violence, Feminism, Feminist jurisprudence, Gendered citizenship, State power
Publication Number: 10635412
ISBN: 978-0-355-45639-4
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