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Domestic violence, discourses of romantic love, and complex personhood in the law

The assumption that it is contradictory for women to love men who abuse them physically, psychologically and sexually is sometimes used in cross-examination of women who have been in abusive relationships to suggest that they are lying about the abuse, or to impinge their credibility as witnesses. This article challenges that assumption by considering selected dominant discourses of romantic love that constrain women's narratives of love and integrate domestic violence as part of love. The article then invokes the spectre of the jurisdiction of women's Courts of Love, highlighting the common law's repression of jurisdiction over matters of love, its lack of precedent within which to interpret women's statements of love, and its focus on relationships as functions of property. The constraints of discourses of love, the lack of common law precedents, and the paradoxical project of asserting agency in the act of constructing oneself as an object of love, all circulate in the courtroom dynamic in which women make statements of love about abusive men.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Nan Seuffert, Domestic Violence, Discourses of Romantic Love, and Complex Personhood in the Law (1999) 23 Melbourne University Law Review 211.
Melbourne University Law Review Association Inc.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the journal, Melbourne University Law Review, (c) 1999 Nan Seuffert