Do Judicial Responses to Restraining Order Requests Discriminate Against Male Victims of Domestic Violence?
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Every state in the United States authorizes its courts to issue civil orders of protection for victims of domestic violence. Ideally, restraining orders should be available to all victims. However, consistent with the patriarchal paradigm, research suggests that judicial responses to domestic violence temporary restraining order (TRO) requests may be sex-differentiated. This paper reports on a study that explored equal protection issues in family law by evaluating gender and violence profiles of a random sample of 157 TRO petitions involving intimate partners, dating couples, and married persons in a California district court. The majority of cases involved allegations of low or moderate levels of violence perpetrated by male defendants against female plaintiffs. Although there were no systematic differences in level of violence as a function of plaintiff sex, judges were almost 13 times more likely to grant a TRO requested by a female plaintiff against her male intimate partner, than a TRO requested by a male plaintiff against his female partner. Further analyses revealed that this sex differentiation was limited to cases involving allegations of low-level violence.
KeywordsDomestic violence Restraining orders Gender bias Patriarchal paradigm Sex differences
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