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Domestic Violence Victims’ Right to Sue Authorities Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 8th, 2020


Victims of child abuse and domestic violence have the right to seek legal recourse in case of violation of their rights. Domestic abuse or violence entails the expression of certain patterns of behaviors that are abusive towards one’s partner in a relationship involving marriage, cohabitation, dating, or a familial affair. This paper provides a basis upon which victims of child abuse and domestic violence can sue authorities for their failure to take timely and relevant action against the offenders.


Cases of child abuse and domestic violence have been on the rise in the recent past following the authorities’ failure to act accordingly against those who engage in such misdemeanors. However, domestic aggression is not constrained to actions that entail physical and emotional abuse. It also implies criminal coercion, unlawful imprisonment, and kidnapping. Engaging in these acts is regarded as a violation of the victims’ rights. Child abuse occurs not only within the familial settings but also in the communal background. For example, acts of sexual assault, molestation, and children beating can be found within and outside their families. An understanding of such violations raises the question of when such victims of child abuse and domestic violence can sue the authorities. This paper argues that the victims of child abuse and domestic violence should sue authorities in case they report any abusive deeds to the authorities who in turn do not take appropriate and timely legal action.

When can Victims of Child Abuse Sue Authorities?

Child abuse is a communal challenge. Consequently, no one agency can claim to possess the training, resources, legal capacity, and the necessary labor to offer full intervention on the issue. In fact, Jordan and McDermott (2015) assert that no single agency has a full mandate to handle abused children. In the event of child abuse such as sexual harassment or physical mistreatment, a series of events occur. The doctor treats the patient after confirming that the act of abuse took place. The child then undergoes therapeutic interventions, for instance, counseling, followed by the act of social workers taking the necessary undertakings, including working in close partnership with the family, until full recovery. Most importantly, police are also supposed to take action by arresting offenders before lawyers can take their role of prosecuting the purported criminals (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). This multidisciplinary response calls upon different players to fulfill their duty owed to the child. In case any authority fails to execute its duty, the child has the legal recourse of considering a lawsuit.

Victims of child abuse need to sue authorities in case they do not take sufficient actions that can guarantee that the experience does not progress to future negative effects on a child’s development. For example, sexually abused children have the risk of developing various life-long challenges in case authorities do not play their role appropriately by fully addressing the abused child’s traumatic experiences. Susan Clancy supports these implications of sexual abuse among children in her book The Trauma Myth. She argues that personality disorders, sexual issues, and relationship challenges at adulthood, anxiety disarrays, self-mutilation, and eating disorder encompass some of the major challenges encountered by sexually abused children. She further suggests that the high rate of children suffering from sexual abuse reveals the extent of mental health challenges experienced in many parts of the world. Consequently, if authorities fail to respond sufficiently to any incident of child abuse, then it is appropriate to consider a legal suit since the above issues are expensive to address and that the offenders need to be held accountable.

The appropriateness of considering suing authorities in situations of inadequate response to child abuse cases receives support in all jurisdictions around the globe. Indeed, sexual abuse amounts to criminal activity in all parts of the world. It attracts incredibly severe penalties. Some jurisdictions deploy capital punishment and /or life imprisonment for guiltiness in child molestation crimes. Sexual intercourse that involves an adult and a child who belongs in the illegal constitutional age is defined as statutory rape (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). Legal proceedings against child sexual molestation are based on the premise that children are incapable of giving consent and that any claim of approval is invalid. Any permission given by minors does not amount to legal consent. Hence, any sexual abuse should attract serious responses from authorities in the threshold in which jurisdictions criminalize it.

Apart from national jurisdictions, international law advocates for heavy penalties to children abusers. The UN Convention on the rights of children (CRC) is a treaty, which sets legal obligations for states to enhance the protection of children’s rights. Articles 34 and 35 require states to ensure that children remain free from various forms of abuse, including physical and sexual maltreatment. Under the international law provisions, sexual exploitation encompasses both penetrative and non-penetrative advances made against children, including any form of coercion to engage in the act. It also includes the use of children for prostitution and/or pornographic purposes. CRC also required nations to curtail all incidences of sale, abduction, and child trafficking (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). The CRC pacts bind 193 nations, which are members of the UN, except Somalia and the US. Hence, child maltreatment constitutes a weighty matter that should be addressed proactively and with utmost determination by all multiagency authorities involved in responding to incidences of the abuse. Failure on the apart of the agencies to respond adequately should then attract a legal redress.

The law-enforcing agencies must play their role in carrying out investigations to determine any criminal activity in cases that involve child abuse. They are mandated with identifying, apprehending, and filing the necessary criminal proceedings in a court of law. The enforcement authorities need to execute their work consistently that the case can withstand trial with high possibilities of the culprit being punished (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). When victims of child abuse identify any inconsistency in the criminal proceedings initiated against a suspect that may lead to him or her walking scot-free, then it is necessary to consider using the authorities.

The law-enforcement systems are conferred the legal power to conduct investigations of possible child abuse offenses. Failing to respond well to claims of child abuse because of their inability to acquire certain information may point to the possibility of wrongful conviction or inappropriate dismissals. This observation underlines the necessity for training child abuse investigators to ensure objectivity in their examination of cases that involve child maltreatments through processes such as conducting interviews on children coupled with the interrogation of the purported suspects. Departments that deal with the enforcement of local laws have the responsibility of establishing the appropriate policies coupled with procedures that may lead to effective investigations of child abuse offenses (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). Consequently, where loopholes are witnessed in the laws with the possibility of leading to the dismissal of offenders, there is a need for considering suing authorities for failing to effectively protect children from abuses.

Victims of child abuse should be able to sue authorities in case mandatory reporting is done and no action being taken to apprehend or prosecute the suspected offender. Parents and close relatives have the responsibility of calling authorities, especially the police in case of child abuse. Nevertheless, those in direct contact with children, including teachers, doctors, and even social workers also have a legal obligation or duty to report child abuse as a mandatory requirement (Jordan & McDermott, 2015). Such abuse may be physical, sexual, or emotional. If the prevalence of sexual abuse among children is anything to go by, then authorities that are reluctant in playing their investigative responsibility should be sued for the menace to stop.

The prevalence rates of child sexual abuse globally vary according to gender. Whealin (2013) informs that19.7 percent of females and 7.9 percent of males across the world have experienced incidences of sexual abuse in their childhood. In 65 studies conducted in 2009 through the deployment of data derived from 22 countries, child abuse was found to be geographically distributed, with the highest prevalence rates being in Africa (34.4 percent), while Europe had the lowest levels at 9.2 percent. According to the findings, Asia and America have an approximate prevalence of 10.1 to 23.9 percent. North America has 15 percent to 25 percent of females and 5 percent to 15 percent of males having experienced incidences of child sexual abuse. Considering this high prevalence, any legal recourse on any authority that fails to accomplish its mandate in dealing with the problem needs to be sued by the victims of child abuse. This plan can help in the compulsion or development of additional laws that can ensure that authorities do not relax in their investigative roles in case of child abuse.

When can Victims of Domestic Violence Sue Authorities?

One of the fundamental characteristics of domestic violence is that it does not discriminate against various people in society. It occurs among heterosexual or homosexual partners and/or among people of varying ages, economic status, and even across all ethnic backgrounds. In line with Zakar, Zakar, and Abbas’s (2016) sentiment on gender-based aggression, while women in the majority of the situations are found to be the major victims of domestic violence, men also are abused, especially psychologically, vocally, and bodily in some instances. Nevertheless, whatever the source of domestic violence, the behavior is unacceptable within a society. However, domestic violence is still prevalent in various societies.

In the UK, the 2013 alteration of the eligibility criteria for legal assistance concerning victims of domestic abuse implies that many children and women are now susceptible to the risk of domestic abuse, especially in acute cases (“How the UK’s legal system is failing victims of domestic violence”, 2016). Following violent incidences, victims of domestic abuse can sue those who exercise authority over them in the anticipation of receiving an intervention. Family courts may intervene and issue an injunction, including non-molestation orders, to force authorities to uphold the law by taking the necessary legal measures to address the issue (Pollack & Shagalow, 2016). They can also issue an occupational order.

Legal assistance for these two orders is accessible in the UK. However, such aid requires a financial contribution, which many women may not afford, especially the low-income class. This situation raises the question of whether victims of domestic abuse need to sue authorities over the stringent conditions that may prejudice or expose them to more danger due to the insufficiency of legal redress. Indeed, victims are required to provide beyond-reasonable-doubt proof of having experienced domestic violence. “How the UK’s legal system is failing victims of domestic violence” (2016) supports this assertion by noting, “There is a strict list of evidence and without one of those forms of evidence, women victims of domestic violence would not get legal aid” (para.5). For example, acceptable proofs are only valid if the claimed abuses occurred within two years.

The two-year rule poses incredible challenges to victims of domestic violence in the UK after considering the effects of domestic violence on them. This form of aggression aims at acquiring total control of a person. To achieve this goal, abusers deploy tactics of instilling fear, shame, and guilt coupled with intimidation to wear down their targets physically and emotionally. In this sense, they impede the ability of their targets to reason and/or exercise self-control. Research on the effects of domestic violence on the ability of women to work such as the one conducted by Audra and Shannon (2012) shows that abused women have a minimal probability of choosing to work relative to men who have not experienced domestic violence.

Hence, battering influences the capacity of women to look for means of bettering their economic status. This situation makes them even more dependent on the perpetrators of domestic violence. In this context, economic independence is a subtle mechanism for reducing the risk of exposure to domestic violence among women. Women who suffer divorce due to domestic violence have an unemployment rate of 20 percent or even less in comparison with those who are not abused in their marriages (Audra & Shannon, 2012). Considering the escalated risk of domestic violence among low socio-economic women, in the case of the UK, the 2013 change concerning the eligibility for legal aid underlines the importance of suing authorities over the increased risk of domestic violence due to stringent requirements that address the issue.

The increased economic status of women resulting from the state of being employed is a key determinant of their exposure to domestic violence. Audra and Shannon’s (2012) findings amplify this argument by noting, “out of the sample of women who were abused in the past, 9.4% of women who are currently not working are mistreated, whereas only 8.9% (3.48% out of 39.2% married women harassed in the past) of women who are currently working suffer maltreatment” (p.1120). These statistical findings indicate that unemployment among women may result in a cycle of exposure to domestic violence, hence concurring with Owusu Adjah and Agbemafle’s (2016) findings concerning the factors that fuel gender-based violence. The main challenge is that after victims of domestic violence have left their marriages, it may take them more than two years for their emotional stirrup to settle down before they can initiate any divorce proceedings. Consequently, according to Smulovitz (2015), victims of domestic violence need to be able to sue authorities over laws that prohibit or lower their probability to access legal redress that would guarantee the protection or punishment of the perpetrators of domestic violence.

The case of the UK evidences a situation in which victims of domestic abuse may sue authorities. Volunteer groups that fight for women’s rights argue that the restriction imposed in 2013 concerning the eligibility of victims to legal aid in the best terms should be considered unlawful (“How the UK’s legal system is failing victims of domestic violence”, 2016). Defenders of the provision seek to fight for the possibilities of domestic violence victims to have accessibility to legal aid at any stage of civil proceedings. However, if law-making authorities do not relax the criterion, judges should use their discretion to order for the provision of legal assistance to the victims. Suing for the relaxation of laws that hinder the accessibility of victims of domestic violence to legal aid is especially important. This claim holds upon considering that women aids’ rights of the UK and the Welsh women relief found in their survey that 60 percent of females do not pursue domestic violence cases once they discover they are not eligible. Many of such women revamp back to the abusive marriages, which only expose them to more cyclical experiences of violence in the fear of the worst if they divorce: Partners may murder them.


Perpetrators of domestic violence attempt to exercise control over their weak targets, yet they do not want to lose them. This claim explains why contemplating murder constitutes an outcome of marriages that are dominated by violence when the weak targets decide to walk away. To prevent such dangers, it is appropriate for domestic violence and child abuse victims to sue authorities in case they perceive that sufficient legal protection or aid is not available or accessible.


Audra, B., & Shannon, S. (2012). Domestic violence, employment, and divorce. International Economic Review, 47(4), 1113-1149.

(2016). The Guardian. Web.

Jordan, I., & McDermott, M. (2015). Understanding the legal system when your child has been sexually abused. Silver Spring, MD: Sexual Assault Legal Institute.

Owusu Adjah, E., & Agbemafle, I. (2016). Determinants of domestic violence against women in Ghana. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 1-9.

Pollack, D., & Shagalow, L. (2016). Mission: Improbable: Getting exonerated from a child sexual abuse conviction. Policy & Practice, 74(1), 20-21.

Smulovitz, C. (2015). Legal inequality and federalism: Domestic violence laws in the Argentine provinces. Latin American Politics & Society, 57(3), 1-26.

Whealin, J. (2013). Child sexual abuse. New York, NY: National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Zakar, R., Zakar, M., & Abbas, S. (2016). Domestic violence against rural women in Pakistan: An issue of health and human rights. Journal of Family Violence, 31(1), 15-16.

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