“Why Does She Stay?” Domestic Violence, Implicit Bias and the Legal System

Question Mark Speech Bubble on Blue Background

Room 108
Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street, Carlton


More Information


Legal cases involving domestic violence are some of the most challenging proceedings processed by the courts, regardless of whether they originate in the criminal or civil system. Frequently, families are in multiple divisions of the court concurrently adding to the challenge.  

Family Law proceedings involving domestic violence issues are complex and extremely time-consuming and while most judges have basic training on handling these cases, some judges are better suited to the task than others. Mediation provides the opportunity for specialisation and the dedication of additional resources, but implicit bias can still be present whether mediation or the traditional court system is used.

Eugene M. Hyman, a retired judge from the Superior Court of California and an internationally recognised expert on domestic violence, believes that implicit bias and continual blaming of victims is the biggest challenge facing our domestic violence response. He argues that “Why does she stay?” is the seminal question considered by everyone in the legal system who intersects with the survivors of violence, including judges, the police and policymakers. This bias is an “elephant in the room” which must be addressed if rates of domestic violence are to be seriously reduced.

In this presentation, Judge Hyman will outline an approach to tackling implicit bias in the legal system, a challenge that needs to be addressed in the United States, Australia and around the world.

Judge Eugene M Hyman retired from the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara in 2011, where for 20 years he presided over cases in the criminal, civil, probate, family, and delinquency divisions of the court. As an internationally recognized expert on domestic violence and juvenile domestic violence, he has lectured in Canada, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. He has presided over what is believed to be the first juvenile domestic violence and family violence court in the United States, which received a United Nations public service award in 2008.

Prior to being admitted to the bar, Judge Hyman was a police officer for the City of Santa Clara Police Department (California) and later joined the Municipal and Superior Court benches. He brings breadth and depth to bear on current legal issues in general and topics including gender issues, strangulation, drug courts, and stalking. Judge Hyman has an abiding interest in education and outreach. He continues to lecture at the Santa Clara University School of Law in addition to providing legal commentary. Judge Hyman was a witness before the Royal Commission into Family Violence on the topic of restraining orders.

This event is presented by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute in partnership with the Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence Against Women and their Children (MAEVe).

This venue is wheelchair accessible. To discuss any other accessibility requirements, please get in touch via social-equity@unimelb.edu.au or +61 3 8344 7603.