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The juxtaposition of intimacy with violence is striking. Intimacy implies a closeness and a vulnerability that is treasured and inviolate. Intimacy should foreclose the possibility of violence. Intimate violence should be an oxymoron. Yet, intimacy sometimes creates its own special kind of violence, one that can erupt into rape or assault. On a less physical level, intimacy may cause violence to a woman's personal integrity and economic independence.

Intimate violence manifests itself with a certain subtlety that forces women to walk a careful tightrope in order to avoid threatened harm. This essay is about that tightrope: the double binds women experience in their intimate lives and the ways in which the law reinforces those binds by interpreting women's constrained choices as consent. This essay focuses on familial and sexual intimacy to see how the law reads women's behavior as indicating consent to what would otherwise be redressable harm.

Publication Citation

48 S.C.L. Rev. 615-640 (1997)