This paper is a combination of theoretical perspectives on Restorative Justice gleaned from my yearlong M.Ed. thesis (a study of the language employed in RJ conferences), and from the practice of running some thirty conferences with couples caught up in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in and around the city of Palmerston North, New Zealand from 2015- 2017. I have tried to contextualize IPV into its wider historical, social and political context, believing that this is essential to understanding the phenomenon. In addition, I have paid careful attention to language, arguing that the terms ‘safety’ and ‘accountability’ have become codewords that serve to obscure and close down meaningful debate. I have followed Goodmark’s use of the term ‘Dominance Feminism’, and have detailed the contest between the received ways of responding to IPV, and the practices and beliefs of Restorative Justice, suggesting that the traditional gatekeepers may be winning this contest. My argument in any case, is that RJ is not appropriate in the majority of IPV cases because it is a brief intervention into a situation of culturally and generationally embedded practices and beliefs. I conclude that the 1995 Domestic Violence Act may in fact be the greatest obstacle to meaningful attempts to rid society of domestic violence, because it is situated totally within the discourse of the law as a retributive agent.
Key words: safety, accountability, restorative, justice.