Do Good Intentions Beget Good Policy? Two Steps Forward and One Step Back in the Construction of Domestic Violence in Ontario
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The construction of domestic violence shifted and changed as this issue was forced from the private shadows to the public stage. This dissertation explores how government policy initiatives - Bill 117: An Act to Better Protect Victims of Domestic Violence and the Domestic Violence Action Plan (DVAP) - shaped our understanding of domestic violence as a social problem in the first decade of the twenty-first century in Ontario. Specifically, it asks whose voices were heard, whose were silenced, how domestic violence was conceptualized by various stakeholders. In order to do this I analyzed the texts of Bill 117, its debates, the DVAP, as well as fourteen in-depth interviews with anti-violence advocates in Ontario to shed light on their construction of the domestic violence problem. Then I examined who (both state and non-state actors) regarded the work as ‘successful’, flawed or wholly ineffective. In particular, I focused on the claims and counter-claims advanced by MPPs, other government officials, feminist or other women’s group advocates and men’s or fathers’ rights group supporters and organizations. The key themes derived from the textual analysis of documents and the interviews encapsulate the key issues which formed the dominant construction of domestic violence in Ontario between 2000 and 2009: the never-ending struggles over funding, debates surrounding issues of rights and responsibilities, solutions proposed to address domestic violence, and finally the continued appearance of deserving and undeserving victims in public policy. This exploration is important because it speaks to issues of power, given that within and between these advocacy groups certain voices are privileged and silenced to varying degrees, and the outcomes of these complex processes contribute to the shaping of public policy and perceptions outside the state apparatus.