Offenses of Abusive Domination in the Criminal Law

According to the standard view criminal law deals with public, rather than private wrongs. Yet certain areas of criminalization challenge this assumption, such as the field of sex offenses (which is commonly viewed as intended to protect the right to sexual autonomy). The purpose of this paper is to discuss a host of emerging offenses – which I refer to as offenses of abusive domination – that further complicate the relationship between individual rights and the criminal law. These include prohibitions against hierarchical sex and domestic emotional abuse. Existing accounts offer mainly two conceptualizations for abusive domination (AD) along the public interest/private right divide. This paper offers, instead, a third theory, drawing on neo-republican theory of domination. AD, I shall argue, concerns the offensive misuse of structural power, hence, it should be acknowledged as a hybrid of public and private wrong. This carries implications for the justification of criminalizing AD.