Integrating Services for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence into Mediation Centers
University of Delaware
This thesis proposes replication of the protocol of the Mediation Center of Dutchess County, New York, which is the only mediation center in the United States to offer counseling services for victims who have a history of intimate partner violence and are seeking divorce and/or child custody agreements with their spouses. As the practice currently exists, couples with a history of intimate partner violence can seek resources specific to ending the violence or specific to obtaining a divorce through the formal judicial system. If a couple who has a history of intimate partner violence wants to go to a mediation center instead of going to court to resolve issues surrounding a divorce or child custody agreement; however, they are screened out and referred to programs for offender rehabilitation or victim counseling. This thesis argues that the gap in services for recovering victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence could be best served by restorative-justice-based alternative dispute resolution in the style of the protocol of the Mediation Center of Dutchess County, New York. After a brief review of the literature on intimate partner violence, chapter one outlines the history of policies pertaining to intimate partner violence as well as my own insights developed in direct observation of the experiences of victims of such violence within the criminal justice system. Chapters two and three discuss scholarship on restorative justice and alternative dispute resolution as it pertains to the described population. Chapter four includes the interviews with four practitioners who discuss possible obstacles and specific suggestions for integrating counseling into mediation centers. Chapter five outlines applied lessons from the literature and from interviews on how the proposed mediation centers would run.