A gendered analysis of charges laid

D. BaderLead Researcher: Danielle Bader

Pro-charging policies were implemented in Canada in the 1980s to protect women and children from violent men (Department of Justice Canada, 2015; Johnson & Dawson, 2011). The proportion of men charged for domestic violence related offences has increased marginally and still remains higher than the proportion of women charged. However, charges against females have increased dramatically since the implementation of these policies (Durfee 2012; Busch & Rosenberg, 2004; Henning & Feder, 2004; DeLeon-Granados et al., 2006; Comack, Chopyk, & Wood, 2000. The narrowing of the gender gap is a concern because pro-charging policies may be criminalizing women for using violence in self-defence, while failing to hold men accountable for perpetrating violence against their intimate partners. Little is known about the gendered differences in charging decisions in domestic violence cases, particularly in the Canadian context.

Lead by Danielle Bader, this study examines whether there are gendered differences in charges laid against male and female defendants in domestic violence cases. Drawing from Crown attorney files in a small, Ontario city, a sample of about 1,700 males and females charged with domestic violence related offences between 2003 and 2009 are examined. Two key questions are addressed: (1) Does gender of the accused affect the number of charges laid in a domestic violence incident? (2) Does gender of the accused determine the type of primary charge laid in a domestic violence incident?

The study findings will have important legal and policy implications for understanding criminal justice responses to domestic violence.