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Houston Law Review





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There are numerous civil and criminal legal alternatives available in Texas for dealing with abuse between adult cohabitants. Current and proposed systems may protect victims more effectively and deter abusers, and empirical studies can reveal the direction legal systems should take to pinpoint the flaws and shortcomings in present legal responses to abuse.

The difficulty of assessing the extent of spousal abuse increases the difficulty of finding an effective legal remedy. Abuse, like rape, is far less likely to be reported than other crimes. In addition, spousal abuse is hard to define in any meaningful statistical manner because of the variety of forms it takes. The unavailability or unreliability of statistics on the incidence of spousal abuse in Texas is largely due to a historical indifference to abuse as a major social concern. It is clear, however, that the number of cases of spousal abuse in Texas alone may be in the millions.

The primary purpose of legal remedies addressing spousal abuse should be deterrence, protection, and compensation, in that order. The law should deter the potential abuser, and this focus must remain primary. When deterrence fails, effective protection of the potential victim becomes paramount. If law and society fail in these goals, compensatory and rehabilitative measures must be available. The essential challenge is to provide legal systems that are both effective, and accessible. It is hard to imagine any larger class of victims in such urgent need who have traditionally received so little assistance from the law.

Recommended Citation

Gerald S. Reamey, Legal Remedial Alternatives for Spouse Abuse in Texas, 20 Hous. L. Rev. 1279 (1983).

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