Domestic Violence Reform: From Page to Practice and Back Again


Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the N.Y.U Review of Law & Social Change.

The Review played a significant role in both my law school experience and the work I have been doing since. N.Y.U. Law was my first choice for law school because I wanted to pursue public interest law, and, with its extensive clinical program and the Review, N.Y.U. provided the most opportunities to do so. I continue to recommend it as the law school for individuals interested in this area of law.

Journals like the Review obviously play a significant role in the practice of public interest law. They give support to legal arguments in litigation and move policy agendas along in vital ways. They give perspective to practitioners by identifying a problem; laying out legal and non-legal responses; providing rational, critique-oriented approaches; recommending future actions; and helping to correct approaches to legal problems that may be well-intentioned but lead to counterproductive results.

The subject of the article that I wrote as a student, The Case for Legal Remedies for Abused Women, provides an example of how journals like ours can aid in the development of good public policy. When I wrote my article, domestic violence was just being exposed as a social issue; previously, domestic violence had been shrouded in silence as a private family matter. The advocacy movement itself was also relatively new. By the mid-1970s, domestic violence was becoming a public issue as the media began writing about what was going on behind closed doors. Legislative change was also just beginning; in 1976, Pennsylvania became the first state to adopt a civil law applicable outside of the marital relationship.

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