The Violence Against Women Act, Intersectional Negligence, and State Crime: A Case of Systemic Racism in Federal Law Development

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Angie Moe, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Carlson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ron Kramer, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Brooke Wagner, Ph.D.


Domestic violence, intersectionality, legislation, state crime, state-sanctioned violence, victimology


With intellectual legacies in journalism and human rights (Kramer and Kauzlarich 1998; Kramer, Michalowski, and Kauzlarich 2002), the state crime subdiscipline examines governmental crimes that cause large-scale harm. State crime conceptualizes systemic racism, classism, and sexism as organized criminality, but has yet to consider them multiplicatively. Intersectionalists like Crenshaw (1991), Davis (2005), and Potter (2015), however, consider institutional oppression as it occurs across multiple social locations, recognizing that state sanctioned harm manifests as a result. The Violence Against Women Act was initially enacted in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Crime Control Bill 1994). This study investigates whether VAWA’s development can be considered an instance of state criminality through its failure to rectify conditions of systemic racism. Citing evidence of omission-implicit criminality, this dissertation considers the intersectional context by which the Black community, and Black women in particular, are impacted through the Act’s connection to a strict crime bill and its continued reauthorizations. Using case study methods and various content analytics, findings suggest Congress was aware that VAWA’s overreliance on criminal legal strategies to address intimate partner violence had the capacity to disproportionately harm Black women. In this research I recognize contributions made by Black feminists by discussing the racialized politics of state-sanctioned violence and seek to elevate Black women’s experiences by examining state crime through an intersectional lens. In doing so, I address the overlap between intersectionality and state crime literatures while engaging in criminological activism.

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