Volume 27, 2011
Poverty, Justice, and Markets
Domestic Violence as a Violation of Autonomy and Agency
The Required Response of the Kantian State
Contrary to what we might initially think, domestic violence is not simply a violation of respect. This characterization of domestic violence misses two key points. First, the issue of respect in connection with domestic violence is not as straightforward as it appears. Second, domestic violence is also a violation of care. These key points explain how domestic violence negatively affects a victim’s autonomy and agency—the ability to choose and pursue her own goals and life plan.
We have a moral responsibility to respond to the problem of domestic violence as individuals. But the state also has a responsibility to respond. According to Kant in the Doctrine of Right, one of the purposes of the state is to secure just treatment for everyone. I argue that this includes an obligation to put in place policies and services that will promote the autonomy and agency of victims of domestic violence.