Domestic Violence Expert Kelly Weisberg Wins Journalism Award

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UC Hastings Law Professor Kelly Weisberg received the Hope Rising Journalism Award at the International Family Justice Center Conference earlier this month in recognition of her work as editor of the leading legal newsletter on domestic violence.

Professor Kelly Weisberg

“It’s not journalism in the sense of what most people think of as journalism,” Weisberg said. “It’s more scholarship, very specialized scholarship.”

Weisberg assumed the helm of the national newsletter Domestic Violence Report in 2012, following the tenure of another noted expert in domestic violence, Joan Zorza, who founded the publication in 1995. Over the past nine years, she has continued the newsletter’s critical work, writing and editing articles on such topics such as stalking, separation abuse, firearms, violence in the tribal community, and the role of police.

The Hope Rising Award recognizes journalists of all backgrounds who have helped advance awareness and policy reform around domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and human trafficking. Previous winners include Huffington Post’s Melissa Jeltsen in 2017 for her powerful writing on domestic violence in nearly two stories per week, Lara Logan of 60 Minutes in 2018 for the narrative of her harrowing experience of sexual assault while on assignment in Cairo during Arab Spring, and prize-winning author Rachel Louise Snyder in 2019 for her groundbreaking reporting on traumatic brain injury in domestic violence survivors and childhood exposure to domestic violence.

In recognizing Weisberg, the International Family Justice Center said her “commitment to journalistic excellence has played a transformative role in advancing criminal justice reform.”

On learning of the award, UC Hastings Academic Dean Morris Ratner said, “Professor Weisberg’s stewardship of the Domestic Violence Report reflects a lifetime of trailblazing and rigorous work, shining a scholarly and practical light on an issue that for many years received far too little attention.”

The award recognizes Weisberg’s entire body of work with the Domestic Violence Report. But, for Weisberg, there are definitely some special points of pride. Among them is the August 2014 special issue, which detailed how non-fatal strangulation is often a precursor to homicide.

“Many domestic violence offenders and rapists do not strangle their partners to kill them; they strangle them to let them know they can kill them—any time they wish,” reads an oft-cited passage. “Once victims know this truth, they live under the power and control of their abusers day in and day out.”

That special issue helped expose the myth of “attempted” strangulation and proposed eliminating that adjective from the description of such crimes. It framed the case for making non-fatal strangulation a felony in hopes of preventing some homicides. And, in the end, it “contributed to law reform,” Weisberg said. “Now, in almost every state in the nation, non-fatal strangulation is a felony.”

“I am honored to have a colleague who has been so influential both in scholarship and activism to help those vulnerable to domestic violence,” said UC Hastings Distinguished Professor Joan Williams, a prominent expert on gender issues related to the law.

During almost four decades on the faculty at UC Hastings, Weisberg has taught courses on domestic violence, family law, stalking, juvenile justice, children and the law, and wills and trusts.

“I’ve been able to bring to teaching a tremendous amount of what I’ve learned through the newsletter,” she said. “And through this work I’ve had access to the leading voices in the country in domestic violence, so I’ve brought those voices home to my students.”