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Teaching Empathy: Using Dramatic Narrative to Understand Domestic Violence  

Author:  Susan  Ayres.

Source: Volume 07, Number 04, Spring 2015 , pp.331-350(20)

Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly

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The 2003 call of the American Bar Association for teachers of law to incorporate domestic violence into the law school curricula remains gravely important today. Domestic violence intersects many areas—from family law, to torts, to criminal law. Along with sexual assault, it is one of the most difficult subjects to teach. Students, like the general public, fi nd it hard to comprehend why a person batters, or why a victim stays with the batterer. While students may learn about domestic violence from case law and scholarly excerpts, the best lessons may be learned through narratives, which provide a window into the reasons for battering and the multi-faceted reasons a victim stays with a batterer. This article describes a teaching approach that incorporates narratives by the award-winning, multi-racial writer, Ai (1947-2010). This valuable approach offers a picture of domestic violence that is more compelling than that of casebooks or statistics, and provides students with the ability to respond with greater empathy and understanding to clients experiencing domestic violence.

Keywords: personal accounts; sympathetic identification; vivid and accessible depictions of violence; Power and Control Wheel; O.J. Simpson; Ray Rice; sense of entitlement, possessiveness, and manipulation; Why does he batter? Why does she stay?; pregnancy and

Affiliations:  1: Texas A&M University School of Law.

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