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Gender symmetry in partner violence: The evidence, the denial, and the implications for primary prevention and treatment

Murray A. Straus
Family Research Laboratory University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824 603-862-2594
Katreena Scott
Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology
OISE / University of Toronto 416-923-6641 ext. 2570
EVIDENCE ON GENDER SYMMETRY........................................................................................................................3
Symmetry In Perpetration Rates.......................................................................................................................3
Mutuality of PV..................................................................................................................................................4
Low Prevalence of Self-Defense ......................................................................................................................5
Symmetry in Coercion and Control...................................................................................................................6
Symmetry in Other Risk Factors.......................................................................................................................7
Gender Differences in Injury and Deaths..........................................................................................................7
Severe Violence Experienced by Men..............................................................................................................9
Summary ........................................................................................................................................................11
WHY PV IS MISPERCEIVED AS ASYMMETRICAL...................................................................................................12
Cultural Acceptance of Male Power and Male Violence.................................................................................12
Gender Stereotypes........................................................................................................................................12
The Movement to End PV Was Developed By Feminists...............................................................................13
Men Predominate In Crimes Known To the Police.........................................................................................13
Empathy For And Concerns About Unfair Treatment Of Women Victims......................................................14
METHODS USED TO CONCEAL, DENY, AND DISTORT THE RESEARCH ...........................................................15
Method 1. Suppress Evidence........................................................................................................................16
Method 2. Avoid Obtaining Or Analyzing Data On Female Perpetration........................................................16
Method 3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration ...........................................................................17
Method 4. Conclude That Results Refute Symmetry When They Do Not......................................................18
Method 5. Create “Evidence” By Citation ......................................................................................................19
Method 6. Obstruct Funding of Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance Is The
Cause of PV ...........................................................................................................................................20
Method 7. Harass, Threaten, And Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That Contradicts
Feminist Beliefs......................................................................................................................................20
PREVENTION OF PARTNER VIOLENCE: CRITIQUE OF PAST EFFORTS ...............................................21
IMPLICATIONS FOR PREVENTION ..........................................................................................................................23
Principles For Improving Primary Prevention .................................................................................................25
Prevention of Injury and Death Resulting from Partner Violence ...................................................................28
TREATMENT OF PARTNER VIOLENCE ...................................................................................................................30
Critique of Past Efforts....................................................................................................................................31
Assess all Presentations of Partner Violence for Dangerousness and Symmetry .........................................32
Avoid Exclusive Reliance on Feminist Theory..............................................................................................32
Consider Replacing Educational “Intervention” With Cognitive-Behavioral Or Other Empirically Validated
Conduct Additional Research on Treatment Needs of Men and Women Who Have Engaged In Partner
1.To be published in J. R. Lutzker & D. J. Whitaker (Eds.), Prevention Of Partner Violence.
Washington D.C. : American Psychological Association. Copies of this and related papers can be
downloaded from The work has been supported by National Institute of
Mental Health grant T32MH15161 and by the University of New Hampshire.
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Develop Better Strategies To Contain High-Risk, Repeat Offenders.............................................................35
Develop theoretically and empirically-supported treatment programs for female offenders...........................36
Consider Expanding Services In Couple Therapy And Restorative Justice...................................................37
Summary ........................................................................................................................................................39
Physical aggression against marital partners, although long recognized and deplored,
has historically been denied under the guise of protecting the privacy and integrity of the family
(Calvert, 1974). The training manual published by the International Society Of Chiefs of Police
(International Association of chiefs of Police, 1967), for example, advised officers to minimize
involvement in what were then called “domestic disturbances.” Some cities in the United States
followed an informal “stitch rule” under which arrests were made only if there was a wound that
required sutures. As a result of efforts by the women’s movement starting in the mid 1970’s
there has been a reversal of these traditional approaches. In most jurisdictions in the US and
Canada police are now required or advised to arrest perpetrators of physical attacks on a
partner. Concordant with the arrest policy has been the growth of treatment programs for
perpetrators. Many courts now offer participation in such programs as an alternative to
incarceration. There may be about a thousand such programs in operation in the United States,
and over 200 in Canada (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 2004).
These are tremendous advances, but there is also evidence questioning the
effectiveness of the thirty year long effort to reduce “domestic violence.” A central point of this
chapter is that the effort has been handicapped by conceptualizing physical assaults on a
partner in marital or dating relationships (partner violence or PV from here on) as almost entirely
a phenomenon involving male perpetrators and female victims, i.e. as a problem of “violence
against women;” and the corollary assumption that the primary cause of PV is the patriarchal
nature of society and the family. The purpose of the first part of this chapter is to show the
inadequacy of this conceptualization by summarizing evidence showing that women perpetrate
PV as often as men, and that most PV is mutual. Moreover, the symmetry in PV includes
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symmetry in etiology. It will also be shown that patriarchy is only one of many factors leading to
PV. The second part the chapter identifies some of the reasons the symmetrical nature of PV
has not been perceived. Part 3 documents the methods used to deny, hide, or sometimes
distort the large body of evidence on gender symmetry. Part 4 summarizes studies which show
that existing efforts at prevention and treatment of PV have had limited success and discusses
the implications of symmetry and mutuality for prevention and treatment of PV. Part 5 suggests
changes in prevention and treatment efforts that recognize gender symmetry in PV and that
recognize the multiplicity of causes that lead to PV.
Gender symmetry in PV has been a controversial issue for many years. It has been
explored in numerous articles (e.g. Kimmel, 2002; Saunders, 2002; Straus, 1999), three special
issues of Violence Against Women in 2006, and books (e.g. Felson, 2002). Despite these
writings, the prevailing conceptualization of PV remains that it is primarily a male crime and that
the few women who do perpetrate PV do so almost exclusively in self-defense or in retaliation
for a long history of victimization. Because of this conceptualization, it is necessary to present
the evidence on symmetry in perpetration rate, motivation and risk factors for partner violence
before moving on to explanations for the misperception and the implications of the
misperception for designing more effective modes of prevention and treatment of PV.
Symmetry In Perpetration Rates
By 1980 there were already at least ten high quality studies which found that women
physically assault their partners at about the same rate as men attack female partners. By 1995,
there were about a hundred such studies. As of this writing, the evidence is even more
overwhelming. There are about 200 studies documenting equal rates of PV perpetration
(Fiebert, 2004). The meta-analysis by Archer (Archer, 2000) found a pattern of equal or higher
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rates by women in studies conducted in several national and cultural settings. Table 1 shows
the symmetry in rates from a few of the major studies.
(Table 1 to be inserted about here)
Gender symmetry in rates of physical violence may not extend to other forms of abuse
or aggression against a partner. Although there are numerous studies showing substantial
rates of sexual coercion by women (Anderson & Struckman-Johnson, 1998) men are much
more likely to use physical force to coerce a partner into sex, and stranger rapes are almost
exclusively a male crime (Saunders, 2002; U.S. Department of Justice, 2003). Criminal data
also suggest that women are more likely to be stalked by their partners and that men are much
more likely than women to be perpetrators of parent-child homicide-suicide (i.e., cases where
the perpetrator kills himself and family members) (Felson, 2002; Saunders, 2002; Statistics
Canada, 2005). However, these behaviors occur very infrequently relative to non-lethal physical
violence in relationships.
Mutuality of PV
The fact that about the same percent of women as men perpetrate PV does not
necessarily show mutuality in PV. If the perpetration rate is 10% for both men and women, the
women could be violent in one tenth of couples and the men in another tenth. Mutuality occurs
when both partners are violent. Three mutuality types need to be considered when assessing
this phenomenon (Medeiros & Straus, 2006b; Straus & Douglas, 2004; Straus & Ramirez,
2007): Male-Only Violent, Female-Only Violent, and Both-Violent. Several studies, including
large and nationally representative samples, have found that that the most prevalent pattern is
mutual violence, and that female-only violence is as prevalent as, or more prevalent than, male-
only violence. This is true even for severe partner violence such kicking, attacks with objects,
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The 1975 and the 1985 National Family Violence Surveys both found that about half of
the violence was mutual, one quarter was male-only, and one quarter was female-only
(Gelles & Straus, 1988b; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 2006 (reprint from 1980)).
The National Comorbidity Study (Kessler, Molnar, Feurer, & Appelbaum, 2001) found
percentages similar to those in the National Family Violence Surveys.
The International Dating Violence Study of university students in 32 countries found that
mutual violence was the predominant pattern in every one of those countries. In most,
countries, mutual violence was characteristic of about two thirds of the cases (Straus,
2006). Although the predominant pattern is mutual violence, when that is not the case,
the Female-Only type occurred more often than the Male-Only type.
Other studies showing similar results include (Anderson, 2002; Capaldi & Owen, 2001;
McCarroll, Ursano, Fan, & Newby, 2004; Moffitt, Caspi, Rutter, & Silva, 2001; Williams &
Frieze, 2005).
Low Prevalence of Self-Defense
Although men and women may physically aggress against each other at similar rates,
their reasons for violence may differ. In particular, the predominance of mutual violence might
really be a reflection of male attacks on female partners, to which women respond in self-
defense or retaliation. Empirical evidence does not support that interpretation. Self-defense is a
motive for only a small proportion of PV perpetrated by women (or men) (Carrado, George,
Loxam, Jones, & Templar, 1996; Cascardi & Vivian, 1995; Felson & Messner, 1998; Follingstad,
Wright, Lloyd, & Sebastian, 1991; Pearson, 1997; Sarantakos, 1998; Sommer, 1996). Using a
variety of samples and assessment techniques, these studies find that self-defense
characterizes less 20% of female violence. Moreover, in general population samples, men and
women are equally represented as using violence in self-defense by both victim and perpetrator
report. For example, using a college student population, Follingstad (1991) found that victims of
violence reported their aggressors' motivation was self-defense in 1.4% of cases if the offender
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was a male, and 4.8% of cases if the offender was a female and perpetrators reported that their
motivation was self-defensive about 18% of the time (17.7% for men, 18.5% for women). As
violence becomes more severe, there are greater gender differences in the use violence in self-
defense; however, self-defense is still a motivation for a relatively small proportion of violence.
In a sample of couples presenting for marital therapy, Cascardi and Vivian (1995) found that
20% of wives and no husbands attributed their use of severe aggression to self-defense. In
cases of homicide, which make up a tiny fraction of PV, it is estimated that 9.6% of homicides
perpetrated by women meet legal criteria for self-defense, compared to .5% of homicides
perpetrated by men (Felson & Messner, 1998). Other homicide studies use different criteria and
estimate higher rates of self-defense (e.g.Mann, 1988; Mann, 1992), though no study has found
self-defense for a majority of cases.
Symmetry in Coercion and Control.
Feminist approaches to understanding and treating PV rightly focus on coercion and
control as key parts of the oppression experienced by female victims. Existing studies suggest
that such motivations are also characteristic of female perpetration of PV. For both men and
women, the most commonly reported motivations for use of violence are coercion, anger, and
punishing misbehavior by their partner. For example, Fiebert and Gonzoles (Fiebert &
Gonzalez) studied 978 female college students and found that 285 (29%) reported initiating a
physical attack. The percent agreeing to five questions about their motivations were: My partner
wasn’t sensitive to my needs – 46%; I wished to gain my partner’s attention – 44%, I did not
believe my actions would hurt my partner – 38%; My partner was being verbally abusive to me –
38%; and My partner was not listening to me – 43%. Fiebert and Gonzoles did not include
men in their study, but these same types of explanations give to us by many men. Similarly,
Pearson (Pearson) reports that 90 percent of the women she studied assaulted their partner
because they were furious, jealous or frustrated. Other studies with similar findings include:
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Stets and Hammons (Stets & Hammons, 2002) studied 286 couples in a longitudinal study
of the first three years of marriage. In each of the three years, the wives had slightly higher
scores on a scale measuring controlling behavior.
Follingstad (1991) study of 495 college students found that male and female perpetrators of
attributed their violence to anger 37.5% (male) and 57.6% (female) of the time, and to a
desire to control their partner 8.3% (male) and 22.0% (female) of the time.
Cascardi (1995) studied 62 couples presenting for marital therapy. In this sample, 99% of
male and 90% of female perpetrators of mild aggression, and 86% of male and 92% of
female perpetrators of severe aggression reported that anger or anger and coercion was
one of their motives.
Kernsmith (2005) studied a sample of clients of women charged with PV and found that the
main motivations rather than self-defense were anger and coercion, to “discipline partner”
and to “exert power.”
Symmetry in Other Risk Factors
Although coercion and anger are the predominant motivations for PV by both men and
women, there are many other risk factors, including a wide range of social and psychological
problems such as poverty and stress, depression, antisocial personality, and attachment
disorder and social skill deficits such as communication problems, anger management, and
negotiation skill. Usually these are investigated only for male offenders, giving the impression
that these are risk factors for PV by men but not women. However, when studies include both
men and women they have found that symmetry in these types of risk factors also predominates
(Medeiros & Straus, 2006a; Medeiros & Straus, 2006b; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 2006
(reprint from 1980); Swan & Snow, 2006, 2006).
Gender Differences in Injury and Deaths
The only consistently supported gender difference in PV by men and women is that
attacks by men cause more injury, including more deaths. Although this may be the only
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consistently supported gender difference it is an extremely important difference because it is
one of several reasons for the need to continue to provide more services for female victims of
PV than for male victims. Figure 1 illustrates the interaction of gender and injury rate using five
major nationally representative studies of PV. Data are organized to show the links among
estimated annual prevalence rates for violence victimization, gender symmetry, and injury rate.
(Figure 1 to be inserted about here)
On the left hand side of this graph is data from studies finding high rates of partner
aggression. Studies finding the highest rates of violence are generally those which ask about
family conflict; specifically, respondents are asked to report on the frequency with which a
variety of strategies are used by themselves and their partners in conflict, only one of which is
physical violence. Summarizing across three major surveys in the US, an estimated annual
prevalence of PV victimization of 16% is obtained, with higher rates for younger, dating couples
and lower rates for older, married couples. In these samples, the majority of violence
experienced consists of relatively minor slapping, shoving, and throwing things (Gelles & Straus,
1988b; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 2006 (reprint from 1980)).
Further along the continuum are results from the General Social Survey of Canadians.
This survey asked a series of questions specifically about respondents' experiences of minor
and severe emotional and physical abuse, but in the broader context of a survey of criminal
victimization and with the introduction that questions were about the "serious problem" of
violence in the family. Five-year prevalence rates of 7% victimization are reported.
At the right of this figure are studies (NVAW, NCVS, NCS) finding annual incidence rates
of victimization in the range of 1 to 3%. Studies finding rates of violence in this range tend to be
those done in the context of understanding criminal victimization. For example, respondents
may be asked about whether they have experienced assault, and if so, to specify if such assault
was perpetrated by a family member. Reported victimizations on these surveys are most likely
to co-occur with behaviors such as stalking, death threats, and sexual assault.
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Superimposed on this figure are two additional pieces of data. The first is rates of injury
reported in each study. As shown, differences in estimated injury rates across studies co-vary
with prevalence of partner violence reported. In surveys of spousal conflict where high rates of
violence are reported, rates of injury are very low (i.e., less than 2%). In studies of criminal
victimization, rates of injury are markedly higher (i.e., 75%). In other words, as the estimated
prevalence of partner violence decreases, the incidents reported are of substantially greater
severity in terms of the likelihood of injury.
The second piece of data superimposed on this graph is the percentage of men
identified as perpetrators. In studies with high estimated rates of PV and low rates of injury, men
are identified as perpetrators about half of the time confirming gender symmetry in partner
violence as a whole. As estimated prevalence of victimization decreases and injury rates
increase, men are an increasing proportion of the perpetrators and women are an increasing
proportion of the victims reflecting gender dissymmetry in experiences of injury-provoking
Severe Violence Experienced by Men
Although females outnumber males as victims of the most severe PV, female
perpetration of severe violence is not a rare occurrence. In the US in 1998, 510 men were killed
by their partners (as compared to 1,320 women, (Rennison, 2000) and in Canada in 2003,
approximately 55 men were killed by their partners (as compared to 241 women, Statistics
Canada, 2005). Similarly, there are large numbers of men who are severely assaulted and
injured by their partner. Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (Rennison, 2000)
finds that annually, 60,000 men (and 900,000 women) are victims of severe PV and that
between 1993 and 1998, 47,000 men were injured by their partner, 28,090 of whom received
medical treatment.
It is most often assumed that self-defense and battered women syndrome explains the
vast majority of these female-perpetrated instances of severe violence and homicide. In other
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words, we assume that women harm their partners either to protect themselves or as a result of
a long and traumatic history of victimization. However, the previously reviewed evidence shows
that self-defense explains only a mall proportion of female violence.
A helpful paradigm for exploring gender differences in motivation for severe violence is
Johnson's violence typology. Johnson (1993; 1995) proposed four types of PV: a) situational
couple violence, which is most often perpetrated as part of an argument that escalates into
violence and is not embedded in a context of control and fear; b) intimate terrorism,
characterized by one partner controlling the other through the use of fear-provoking physical
and non-physical strategies; c) violent resistance, which occurs when a victim of intimate
terrorism uses violence to fight against control; and d) mutual violent control, which occurs when
both partners perpetrate violence in an attempt to create fear and control of the other (Johnson,
A number of scales have been developed to measure coercion (see previous review of
gender differences in coercion and also Cook & Goodman, 2006). However, new scales or a
method of using existing coercion scales are needed to distinguish between what can be called
“situational coercion” and “generalized coercion.” Most violence by women as well as men is
situational coercion because it is intended to coerce the partner into doing or not doing some
specific thing. On the other hand generalized coercion, which is intended to dominate and
subordinate the partner in all aspects of their relationship, is much less frequent and may be
more prevalent among men.
The two empirical studies of officially identified samples have found a high rate of
intimate terrorism. Johnson’s study of a court-based sample found that 68% of women were
victims of intimate terrorism, with the remaining experiencing mutual violent control (3%) or
situational couple violence (29%). Graham-Kevan and Archer (Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2003)
found 38% intimate terrorist among a sample consisting predominantly of women at a shelter
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and male prisoners. Although these are high rates, it is also important to note that a substantial
percent of offenders were not intimate terrorists.
Finally, and most directly relevant for the focus of this chapter on symmetry in PV, are
four studies that used community samples and compared the percent of men and women in the
intimate terrorist category (Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2004; Laroche, 2005; Prospero, 2006;
Straus & Gozjolko). All four found similar percentages of male and female perpetrators in the
intimate terrorist category
A problem with the estimates of the prevalence of intimate terrorism in both court
samples and general population samples is variation in the criterion for differentiating intimate
terrorists from others. Johnson’s criterion is that that there is coercive control along with
physical violence. The problem arises because, as noted above, situational PV is an attempt to
coerce the partner into doing or not doing something. Thus, within the same sample, and using
the same measure of coercion, the percent of intimate terrorists can range from close to 100%
to close to zero, depending on how high a score on the coercion score is used to indicate a
terroristic relationship.
The available evidence clearly indicates that there are many similarities in PV
perpetrated by men and women. Major and credible studies suggest that women perpetrate
physical attacks on male partners at the same or higher rates as men attack female partners
and that motives for PV are generally parallel for men and women. Even when severe violence
is considered, only a minority of cases fit a profile of self-defense or violence in response to
intimate terrorism. Another substantial proportion of cases are better characterized as common
couple violence or mutual violent control in which men as well as women are victims of severe
violence at the hands of their partners. This being said, it is also clear that the adverse impact of
PV is much greater for violence perpetrated by men: Male violence is substantially more likely to
result in injury or death, and is more fear provoking.
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The evidence of symmetry in perpetration of PV and symmetry in context and motives
has been available for more than 25 years. This raises the question of why that evidence has
not recognized and not applied to programs to prevent and treat PV. Some of the many factors
are listed below, organized under five broad categories.
Cultural Acceptance of Male Power and Male Violence
Until nearly the end of the 19
century, husbands were allowed to use “reasonable
chastisement” to deal with errant wives (Calvert, 1974). Even though female PV has been
documented since the middle ages (George, 1994), historically, male violence has been the
culturally accepted aspect of PV. Thus, efforts to change this cultural norm have driven
much of the research on PV.
In many countries around the world, high levels of male control over women and of male
violence against women is still culturally accepted (
Archer, 2006). In these countries, there
is an urgent need to promote empowerment of women and to provide resources to ensure
safety of women and children.
Men have the predominant power in society as judged by many indicators (Sugarman &
Straus, 1988; UNICEF, 2006; Yodanis, 2004). The cognitive discrepancy between this fact
and equal rates of violence, even in extremely male dominant societies (Haj-Yahia, 2000;
Straus, 2006) blocks recognition of the equal rates of violence.
Gender Stereotypes
Most cultures define women as “the gentle sex,” making it difficult to perceive violence by
women as being prevalent in any sphere of life.
There are implicit norm tolerating violence by women, on the assumption that it rarely results
in injury (Greenblat, 1983; Straus, Kantor, & Moore, 1994).
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Media distortions that conform to these gender stereotypes. One example (from, literally,
thousands) is And Then He Hit Me in the American Association Of Retired People Magazine
(France, 2006). It states that the number of woman-on-man incidents of domestic violence
among the elderly is “negligible” and cites a study by Pillemer and Finkelhor (Pillemer &
Finkelhor, 1986). But that study found that 43% of the cases were of the wife assaulting the
husband, whereas only 17% were of the husband assaulting the wife.
The Movement to End PV Was Developed By Feminists
The women’s movement brought public attention the fact that PV may be the most
prevalent form of interpersonal violence. The feminist effort created a world-wide determination
to cease ignoring PV, and take steps to combat PV. Feminists have largely been responsible
for changing police and court practices from one of ignoring and minimization PV to one of
compelling the criminal justice system to attend and intervene. In addition, feminists have
created two important new social institutions: shelters for battered women and treatment
programs for male perpetrators. Naturally, this effort focused on female victims and male
Men Predominate In Crimes Known To the Police
For almost every other type of crime, and especially violent crime, men predominate, for
some types of crime at a ratio of about ten to one. There is naturally a tendency to think
that this also applies to PV (Ellis & Walsh, 2000).
Among cases of PV recorded by the police, 80-99% male predominance also prevails. This
is not because of more physical attacks by men, but because of the greater probability of
probability of injury from attacks by men and greater fear for safety by women, and the
greater reluctance of men to call the police (Straus, 1999). The predominance of female
victims in police-call cases is usually taken as representative of all cases of PV. This gives
the impression that few women physically assault their partner, even though police are
involved in much less than 10% of PV
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Empathy For And Concerns About Unfair Treatment Of Women Victims
As noted previously, women are physically injured more frequently than men. This results in
appropriately greater concern and sympathy for female victims and leads the press and the
public to focus on assaults perpetrated by male partners.
A growing number of women are being arrested through the practice of dual arrest (Martin,
1997; Miller, 2001). There is a concern that women are being unjustly prosecuted for
violence perpetrated in self-defense or in understandable (but not excuseable) retaliation to
a history of traumatic victimization (Feder & Henning, 2005).
There is a concern that acknowledging female violence will lead to further complications in
arguing that custody and access decisions should recognize partner violence, and that such
complications will eclipse PV cases where victims of terroristic violence and require the
protection of the court (Logan, Walker, Jordan, & Horvath, 2002; Shaffer & Bala, 2004).
As a combined result of the factors listed above, the past 25 years has seen a
systematic denial of evidence about perpetration of PV by women. This denial is troublesome
for social scientists because it threatens the integrity of science, and for practitioners because it
threatens the effectiveness of prevention and treatment efforts. However, our criticisms are not
directed at advocates for women, including the
thousands of dedicated women who developed
and maintain services for battered women. These women are part of a social movement that
has benefited the entire society, not just women. The job of social movements and advocacy
groups is to change society. To achieve this, social movements often deny contrary evidence,
distort evidence, and exaggerate. It can be argued this is necessary to achieve even modest
social changes. But it is the job of the scientist to explain the way the world works, and for this
to be achieved, scientists cannot let their social and moral commitments lead them to deny
contrary evidence, distort evidence, and exaggerate.
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In denying and distorting the evidence, social scientists are also doing a disservice to
the development of prevention and treatment resources to successfully end PV. First, in addition
to being morally wrong, the use of violence in a relationship by either men or women is
associated with lower levels of relationship health (see section below on healthy relationships).
Second, there may be specific risks for women associated with their use of aggression. Girls
(and boys) who bully in childhood are more likely to report being verbally and physically
aggressive in their dating relationships (Connolly, Furman, & Konarski, 2000; Pepler et al.,
2006). Moreover, female use of aggression is an important precipitant of male aggression
(O'Leary & Slep, 2006). Third, the negative consequences for children of witnessing aggressive
marital conflict and domestic violence have been well documented (Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson,
1990; Margolin & Gordis, 2000; Wolfe, Wekerle, Scott, Straatman, & Grasley, 2004) and these
effects also apply when the perpetrator is the mother (Straus, 1992).
Finally, there are political reasons to recognize female perpetration of PV. As previously
mentioned, one concern about acknowledging female aggression is that it might weaken
feminists continuing advocacy for fair treatment of women, particularly in the legal arena.
However, denial by social groups may be even more harmful to the group than is denial of
painful phenomena by individuals (Zerubavel, 2006). The feminist denial of the evidence on
female PV may be weakening the feminist cause. We believe it will ultimately have a more
negative impact on advocacy than will acknowledging PV by women. Maintaining the position
that men are almost exclusively perpetrators and women are almost exclusively victims is
already alienating young women and is likely to weaken the public base of feminist support. A
the same time, these assertions anger men who feel that they are being unjustly accused and
provide fuel for the fire of the growing body of men's groups who claim that women cause more
harm to men than visa versa. Finally, such claims may reduce the credibility among academics
of feminist scholarship.
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Denying an overwhelming body of evidence takes extraordinary effort. In this section,
we identify and provide examples of the methods used to conceal, deny and distort research
showing gender symmetry in most forms of PV.
Method 1. Suppress Evidence
Researchers with a commitment to the idea that men are almost always the sole
perpetrator, or whose commitment to increase services to women victims of PV is so strong that
it overrides their commitment to science, as shown previously, often leads to concealing
evidence that contradicts this belief. In addition, many researchers not committed to that
ideology have withheld results showing gender symmetry to avoid becoming victims of vitriolic
denunciations and ostracism (see Method 7 below). A typical pattern is to publish only the data
on male perpetrators or female victims, deliberately omitting data on female perpetrators and
male victims. This practice started with one of the first general population surveys on family
violence. The survey done for the Kentucky Commission On The Status Of Women obtained
data on both men and women, but only the data on male perpetration was published
Schulman, 1979). Among the many other examples of respected researchers publishing data
on assaults by men and the data on assaults by women are Kennedy and Dutton (1989),
Lackey and Williams (1995), Johnson and Leone (2005), and Kaufman Kantor and Straus
Method 2. Avoid Obtaining Or Analyzing Data On Female Perpetration
Due to prevailing ideology that women are almost never perpetrators of PV and men are
almost never victims, researchers designing surveys have typically asked female participants
only about attacks by their male partners, and male respondents only about perpetration. To
achieve this, the Canadian national Violence Against Women survey (Johnson & Sacco, 1995),
modified the Conflict Tactics Scales by omitting the questions on perpetration by the female
participants in the study. The American National Violence Against Women Survey (Tjaden &
Thoennes, 2000) sponsored by the Department of Justice originally planned the same strategy.
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Fortunately, the US Centers For Disease Control added a sample of men to the project. But
when Johnson and Leone (Johnson & Leone, 2005) investigated the prevalence of “intimate
terrorists” among the participants in that study, they guaranteed there would be no female
intimate terrorists by using only the data on male perpetration. Many other studies of PV have
also omitted questions about female perpetration and male victimization. Many, agencies do not
permit collection of data on PV unless questions on female perpetration are omitted. This may
have been the reason that a comprehensive four site study of batterer treatment programs
asked the women only about violence by the partner (Gondolf, 2002). This was a tremendous
lost opportunity because it may be the only comprehensive study of male offenders which had
access to their female partners.
Method 3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration
Another method used to conceal evidence of gender symmetry is to selectively cite
studies of male perpetration and avoid citing studies of female perpetration. US government,
World Health Organization, and United Nations documents show that this method of
concealment and distortion is institutionalized in official publications. For example, US Dept of
Justice publications almost always cite only the National Crime Victimization study, which shows
male predominance (
Durose et al., 2005). They fail to mention the Department Of Justice
published critiques which led to a revision of the survey. but which that only partly corrected
that bias (Straus, 1999). Not only do Department of Justice publications on PV rely on data that
they previously acknowledged is inaccurate for measuring PV, but they also ignore a major and
more accurate study that they themselves sponsored – the National Violence Against Women
.Survey. This study found that women perpetrate about 40% of PV incidents, which is close to
gender symmetry in perpetration
The widely acclaimed and influential World Health Organization report on domestic
violence (Krug et al., 2002) reports that “Where violence by women occurs it is more likely to be
in the form of self-defense (32, 37, 38).” This is selective citation because almost all studies that
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have compared men and women find about equal rates of self-defense. Perhaps even worse,
none of the three studies cited provide evidence supporting the quoted sentence. For example,
Study #32 (Saunders & Hanusa, 1986) shows that about two thirds of female perpetrated PV
was not in self-defense. Study #37 (DeKeseredy, Saunders, Schwartz, & Shahid, 1997) found
that only 7% of women said their violence was in self-defense. Study #38 (Johnson & Ferraro,
2000) is a review paper that has no original data. It cites #32 and #37, neither of which
supports the claim.
A closely related method is to present the results on female perpetration/male
victimization and say nothing about those results. The 2006 US Department of Justice report on
PV gives a chart showing trends for both men and women from 1993 to 2004 (Catalano,
2006b). The only thing said about trends in male victimization, i.e. female perpetration, is that
“The rate of nonfatal intimate partner victimization for males increased between 2003 and 2004,
returning to levels last seen in 1996 (and)1…for white males… (victimization)…increased
between 2003 and 2004, from 0.5 to 1.1…” It is almost certain that that there would be a
commentary and an extensive analysis if Nonfatal PV victimization of white females had
increased between 2003 and 2004, from .5 to 1.1 victimizations per 1,000 i.e., if the female
victimization rate had doubled. But the doubling in the male victimization rate was ignored.
Method 4. Conclude That Results Refute Symmetry When They Do Not
The studies cited above, in addition to be illustrating selective citation, are also
examples of the ability of ideological commitment to lead researchers to misinterpret the results
of their own research. A study by Kernsmith (2005), for example states that “Males and females
were found to differ in their motivations for using violence in relationships.” (p. 173), and that
"female violence may be more related to maintaining personal liberty in a relationship than
gaining power" (p. 180). Although Kernsmith’s Table 2 shows that women had higher scores on
the “striking back” factor, only one question in this factor is about self-defense and this item is
endorsed infrequently. Other more frequently endorsed items are about being angry (e.g., "to
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show anger") and getting back at a partner (e.g. "to get back at your partner for hurting you
emotionally"). In contrast to the idea that women use violence to maintain liberty, these finding
suggest that women are more likely than men to use violence in retaliatory anger. In addition,
Kernsmith’s conclusion ignores the fact that the scores for men and women were approximately
equal in respect to two of the three factors (“exerting power” and “disciplining partner”).Thus,
Kernsmith’s study generally found the opposite of what was stated as the finding.
Method 5. Create “Evidence” By Citation
The Kernsmith’s study, the World Health Organization report, and the pattern of
selective citation show how ideology can be converted into “evidence by citation” or what Gelles
(1980) calls the “woozle effect.” A woozle effect occurs when the frequent citation of assertion in
previous publications that lack evidence mislead
us into thinking there is evidence. For
example, subsequent to the World Health Organization study and the Kernsmith study, papers
discussing gender differences in motivation will cite them to show that female violence is
predominantly in self-defense, which is the opposite of what the research actually shows. But
because these are citations of an article in a scientific journal and a respected international
organization, readers of the subsequent article will accept it as a fact. Thus, fiction is converted
into scientific evidence that will be cited over and over and further strengthen the woozle effect.
Another well documented example is the claim that the Conflict Tactics Scales (Straus,
Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996) does not provide an adequate measure of PV
because it measures only conflict related violence. Although the theoretical basis of the CTS is
conflict theory, the introductory explanation to participants specifically asks participants to report
expressive and malicious violence. It asks respondents about the times when they and their
partner “…disagree, get annoyed with the other person, want different things from each other, or
just have spats or fights because they are in a bad mood, are tired or for some other reason.”
Despite repeating this criticism for 25 years in perhaps a hundred publications, we have not
located any empirical study which has provided evidence showing that only conflict-related
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violence is reported. In fact, where there is both CTS data and qualitative data, as in Giles-Sims
(1983), it shows that the CTS elicits malicious violence as well as conflict-related violence.
Nevertheless, because there are at least a hundred articles with this statement in peer reviewed
journals, it is treated as an established scientific fact.
Method 6. Obstruct Funding of Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male
Dominance Is The Cause of PV
An example of denying funding to research that might contradict the idea that PV is a
male-only crime is the call for proposals to investigate PV issued in December 2005 by the
National Institute of Justice. The announcement stated that proposals to investigate male
victimization would not be eligible. Another example is the objection by a reviewer to a proposal
one of us submitted because of “…naming violence in a relationships as a ‘human’ problem of
aggression not a gender-based problem.” When priority scores by the reviewers are averaged,
it takes only one extremely low score to place the proposal below the fundable level. Others
have encountered similar blocks; for example Holtzworth-Munroe (2005). Eugen Lupri, a
pioneer Canadian family violence researcher, has also documented examples of the resistance
to funding and publishing research on female perpetrated violence (Lupri, 2004).
Method 7. Harass, Threaten, And Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That
Contradicts Feminist Beliefs
Suzanne Steinmetz made the mistake of publishing a book and articles (Steinmetz,
1977; Steinmetz, 1977-1978) which clearly showed about equal rates of perpetration by males
and females. Anger over this resulted in a bomb threat at her daughters’ wedding and she was
the object of a letter writing campaign to deny her promotion and tenure at the University of
Delaware. Twenty years later the same processes resulted in a lecturer at the University of
Manitoba whose dissertation found gender symmetry in PV being denied promotion and tenure.
A PhD student working with Straus was warned at a conference that she will never get a
job if she does her PhD research with him. At the University of Massachusetts, Straus was
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prevented from speaking by shouts and stomping. At two hearings held by the Canadian
Commission On Violence Against Women the chairperson stated that nothing Murray Straus
publishes can be believed because he is a wife-beater and sexually exploits students (Toronto
Magazine article, ??). When Straus was elected President of the Society For the Study Of
Social Problems, a group of members occupied the first few rows of the auditorium and, at the
start of the presidential address, stood up and walked out.
As a result of these types of harassment, there is widespread self-censorship by authors
who fear that publishing politically incorrect data will undermine their reputation, or in the case
of graduate students, their ability to obtain a job.
Direct prevention efforts have tended to concentrate on raising public awareness of the
frequency, pervasiveness and severity of PV with statements such as the following which imply
that only men are perpetrators, and that chronic severe assaults and injury are typical:
Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a
husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, Family Violence Prevention Fund,
Any woman—regardless of her age, race, ethnicity, education, cultural identity,
socioeconomic status, occupation, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, or
personality—may experience abuse, National Clearing House on Family Violence,
PV results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths nationwide every year, National
Centre for Injury Prevention and Control,
Prevention efforts have typically used images and stories of women who have been
badly injured and/or who live in fear of their partners.
These public education efforts have contributed to increased funding for services to
women victims of abuse and to improved professional training in the dynamics of domestic
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violence. They have also contributed to a change in public perception on the acceptability of
violence. However, such changes have been limited to male-perpetrated violence and have not
extended to female-perpetrated PV. Two pieces of evidence support this assertion.
First, studies of shifts in public opinion on the acceptability of interpersonal violence
show reductions in pubic acceptability of s male, but not female PV. National samples of men
and women responding to the questions “Are there situations that you can imagine in which you
would approve of a husband slapping his wife’s face/wife slapping her husband’s face” from
1968 to 1994 found substantial declines in public approval of a man slapping his wife but no
significant reduction in approval of a wife slapping her husband (Straus, 1995; Straus, Kaufman
Kantor, & Moore, 1997). More recent data from the International Dating Violence Study shows
much greater acceptance of female-perpetrated than male perpetrated minor violence by
women in all but one of the 32 nations (Douglas & Straus, 2006). Such data clearly suggest that
public messages about aggression in relationships in general have not extended to female-
perpetrated PV.
(Insert figure 2 about here)
Data on decline in rates of actual PV show similar gender-related differences, In 1975,
Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz conducted the first nationally representative household survey of
PV (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 2006 (reprint from 1980)). The survey was repeated using the
same measure of PV in 1985 (Gelles & Straus, 1988b), and again in 1992 by Kaufman Kantor
(1994). Results show a substantial decrease in the rate of severe assaults on women by male
partners (Figure 2) but no change for women. Canadian data provide a similar picture. Rates of
male perpetration showed a slight decline between 1999 and 2004 while rates of female
perpetration remained statistically stable (Statistics Canada, 2005). Similarly, the US National
Crime Victimization Survey found a 60% reduction in male-perpetrated PV between 1993 and
2004, but no decrease in female-perpetrated PV between 1993 and 2003 and a slight increase
in female perpetrated PV between 2003 and 2004 (Catalano, 2006a).
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(Insert figure 3 about here)
In this and the following section, we suggest that part of the limitations of current
prevention and treatment efforts relates to denial of the evidence on symmetry in prevalence
and etiology of PV. Accordingly, we suggest alternative prevention and treatment approaches
that are based on recognition of this evidence.
An important starting point for reform is the implicit assumption that almost all
perpetrators are intimate terrorists and male. Both prevention and treatment of PV needs to
recognize the heterogeneity of PV (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000; Straus, 1990). As previously
shown (see Figure 1), the most frequently occurring forms of PV are minor (usually slapping,
pushing) and rarely cause physical injury. These forms of violence are perpetrated equally by
men and women, mostly in anger. A small but very important percentage of PV is severe, likely
to cause injury, and may be experienced more frequently by women than men.
Appreciation of this heterogeneity has particular implications for prevention. Specifically,
if the goal is the prevention of PV, there are number of reasons why the focus needs to be
equally on male and female perpetration, and to primarily focus on minor forms of physical
Minor and mutual violence is the most prevalent pattern.
Severe PV such as punching, chocking, and attacks with objects are already recognized as
Prevention of minor violence may prevent escalation into more severe forms of violence
Witnessing violence by either parent contributes to the next generation of PV
Ending PV by women is an essential step in preventing violence against women because
female violence evokes retaliation and contributes to legitimizing male PV (Straus, 2005).
A focus on minor violence which rarely results in injury is consistent with the principle that
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ending a risk factor with a low effect size, but which is broadly prevalent, makes a larger
contribution to public health than ending a risk factor with a large effect size but which
characterizes only a small part of the population (Cohen, 1996; Rose, 1985; Rosenthal,
A focus on prevention of minor violence by women as well as men reflects our belief that all
violence in relationships (except that perpetrated in self-defense) is wrong regardless of
whether it cases injury, fear, or distress in the other person.
The emphasis in the previous paragraphs on “primary prevention” by focusing on minor
violence does not mean ignoring that secondary prevention of severe violence and physical
injury. However, the target population for secondary prevention and the information to be
conveyed are different. The target population is those already involved physically violent
relationships. The information need to focus on broadening recognition of risk-factors for
severe PV (e.g., death threats, suicidality, availability of weapons). A focus on women is
necessary due to the predominance of female victims of the most severe violence. However,
the fact that many men are also victims of severe PV and their needs must also be considered.
Distinguishing between primary and secondary prevention is important from both
theoretical and practical perspectives. From a theoretical perspective, it helps to counter the
myth that physical violence by women is not important because it less often causes distress or
injury. Instead, it allows for the assertion that physical violence is wrong, in and of itself. From a
practical perspective, it helps to focus attention on the audience most appropriate for each form
of prevention. Justice, health and social service personnel, for example, are primarily concerned
with violence that results in or has a high probability of physical injury. Those seeking to
promote healthy relationships are interested in a much wider range of violence because it is
distressing, increases the probability of mental health problems and dysfunctional family
The following section begins with a critique of past prevention efforts in PV and shows
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that confounding of purposes (i.e., violence prevention, injury reduction, gender equity) has
limited the effectiveness of prevention efforts. Then, guidelines for future efforts to prevent
violence and injury are presented.
Principles For Improving Primary Prevention
The decline in male penetration provides a hopeful context for continued prevention
efforts. However, the rate of PV by men remains high and the lack of corresponding decline in
female victimization indicates that improvements are needed. We suggest four principles to
guide improvements in prevention efforts.
Principle 1. Assert that, except in self-defense, physical violence is not
acceptable, and explicitly mention that this applies to girls and women, as well as to
boys and men, and that retaliation is not self-defense. Given the frequency of violence by
both men and women, a first principle that should guide prevention efforts is the recognition that
all forms of PV except those used in immediate self-defense, are unacceptable. Because broad
shifts in public opinion on the unacceptability of interpersonal violence has focused almost
entirely on violence by males. In fact, messages are so gender biased that terms such as
“domestic violence” are now perceived as applying exclusively to male perpetrated violence. To
change that perception, public education campaigns need to explicitly mention perpetration by
girls and women as well as boys and men. Such messages should assert that physical
aggression is not an appropriate way for girls and women to gain the attention of their partner,
to emphasize a point, or to express anger or other emotions in their relationships. The brochure
“Coaching Boys Into Men” (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2006) which address the cultural
acceptability of violence by boys, needs to be paralleled by a similar brochure addressed to
A good example of a campaign that addresses PV by both women and men is the
"Respect. Give it. Get it" initiative ( This is a US national initiative
designed to help adolescents form healthy relationships to prevent dating abuse before it starts.
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Teens who access this website are provided with a variety of materials including educational
games and videos, posters, tip cards and fact sheets. One example of a specific prevention
initiative targeting young woman in a poster that shows a picture of a teen thinking "He made
me mad..." and then considering a respectful "so we talked it out after school" versus a non-
respectful and verbally aggressive response "so I yelled at him in front of his friends". These
posters, along with all other materials on the site, emphasize the need for young women as well
as young men to avoid physical violence, verbal abuse and emotional abuse.
Principle 2. Increase Promotion of Positive Messages about Relationships as a
Means to Prevent Partner Violence. A second prevention recommendation is to reduce
emphasis on the prevalence and severity of PV and increase focus on positive relationship
skills. This recommendation is based on best practice documents for the prevention of other
problem behaviors. For example, the Surgeon's General Report (2001) and the Blueprints
Violence Prevention Initiative (Mihalic, Erwin, Fagan, Ballard, & Elliott, 2004) recommend that
successful programs for bullying and peer violence are those that (among other things) focus on
developing positive peer relationships skills.
Studies of healthy relationships suggest that good partnerships share a number of
important features including mutual trust, emotional intimacy, positive affect, a sense of
commitment and loyalty, good communication, and the desire to support one’s spouse
(Bagarozzi, 1997; Fenell, 1993; Moore et al., 2004). Of these, adequate communication skills
have been most clearly related to the development of aggression against a partner. In a series
of excellent observational studies, Gottman and colleagues (1994; 1998) discovered that failure
to regulate reciprocation of negativity and de-escalate conflict is a central feature of aggressive
relationships and an important contributor to understanding the deterioration of marriages.
Teaching these conflict management skills are a promising focus for prevention efforts.
Resource materials available through the Choose Respect initiative provide one
example of the type of positive messages recommended to prevent PV. Other prevention
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initiatives targeting adolescents have also begun to rely on more positive messages. Two
examples are the Making Waves website (, which presents a combination of
information about healthy, unhealthy and abusive adolescent relationships, and the Girls Health
website sponsored by the US Department of Health and Social Services
( It includes sections addressing healthy relationships for
boys and girls as well as sections on abuse. Although these messages have the great merit of
focusing on relationship skills for both boys and girls, neither of these websites use specific
examples of girls hitting boys. They therefore fail to counter the myth that physical violence in
relationships is an exclusively male behavior. However, these websites are at least an
improvement over the website sponsored by Liz Claiborne ( which
explicitly presents teen dating violence as perpetrated by men for the purpose of controlling
women (e.g., see section on "Question Why") and focuses primarily on helping women avoid
being victims of abuse rather than developing healthy relationship skills as a method of
achieving that. Broad public education campaigns to prevent PV in adult dating, cohabiting, and
marital relationships should follow the lead of the teen prevention resources that focus on the
development of healthy relationships skills and which emphasize the need for women, as well
as men, to use these skils to avoid physical aggression.
Principle 3. Carefully Consider when to Use Fear as a Motivator for Change.
Prevention messages directed toward women often seem intended to promote fear; in
particular, women’s fear of men’s violence. Fear-based messages have limited use in
prevention. Research from a variety of areas of prevention show that when presented with fear-
based messages, people respond positively only if preventive actions are readily apparent and
easily envisioned. If preventative actions are not readily envisioned, fear-based prevention
methods contribute to greater denial of the issue. Accordingly, best practice guidelines for
prevention advise that if a fear-based message is to be used, it should be paired with a clear
positive message on steps that can be taken to avoid the fear-provoking outcome (Ruiter,
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Abraham, & Kok, 2001). PV preventative messages directed to women fail in this respect.
Rather than present ways to avoid being a victim of PV, many woman abuse awareness
campaigns emphasize the vulnerability of all women in any form of heterosexual relationship.
Such messages leave women without any clear ideas of how to avoid being abused, except
perhaps by avoiding relationships with men. The evidence from research on the impact of fear-
provoking prevention methods suggests that such messages could increase women's denial of
the possibility of being a victim of abuse and even contribute to backlash against the feminist
movement by women.
Principle 4. Recognize gender in the development of prevention messages. The
previous principles emphasized the need to send similar messages about violence and about
healthy relationships to both men and women. Although the ultimate messages around avoiding
PV should be the same, the nature of such messages needs to be informed by a gendered
analysis of relationships. Men and women continue to be socialized differently about
relationships. As a result, they have different expectations of relationships, face different
relationship pressures, and are angered and frustrated by different factors. The realities of male
and female socialization also play a significant role in how violence plays out in a relationship
when it occurs. For example, it is likely that stereotypes about male self-sufficiency contribute to
men’s greater reluctance to report severe, injury-causing experiences of victimization to police
(Felson & Pare, 2005). A gender strategic approach to prevention recognizes such differences
and uses them to inform education and skill development (Crooks, Wolfe, & Jaffe, 2006).
Prevention of Injury and Death Resulting from Partner Violence
Although estimates vary across studies, severe violence such as choking, beating up a
partner, or threatening a partner with a knife or a gun, and violence that causes injury occurs in
small proportion of relationships. (Kaufman Kantor & Straus, 1990; Straus, 1991). Because
women are about two thirds of victims who suffer injury or death from these more severe forms
of PV, and most of those who “fear for their lives” (Pottie Bunge & Locke, 2000), emergency
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distress lines, shelters, and advocacy services for abused women remain critically important.
Justice officials, advocates and services providers are in critical need of assessment tools and
guidelines to differentiate forms of violence, both so that male victims can be recognized and so
that women are not inappropriately punished for using violence in self-defense or in response to
a history of criminal victimization.
Although the majority of resources for victims of severe PV should target women, the
service and victimization prevention needs of male victims should not be ignored, as is now the
case. The review earlier in this chapter shows that most PV is mutual. Male victims as well as
female victims deserve information and resources to help them recognize the possibility of injury
and escape from further violence. This should include public information messages that focus
on the need for men as well as women to give serious consideration to the criminal meaning
and potential result of their partner's use of violence. Resources for helping men escape
situations when their partner is being violent are also needed. Such services are starting to
become available, for example, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men And Women which
provides a 24 hour phone line (1-888-7HELPLINE) and other services
Injury prevention programs need to accept the reality that men are about a third of those
injured or killed by a partner. Although we do not recommend fear-based message to raise
awareness of male victimization, male victimization must be given more than a short mention in
prevention programs. Instead, prevention programs should explicitly state that, although women
are more likely to be injured by their partners than men, large numbers of men are injured or
Finally, services for male victims of PV such as those offered by the Domestic Abuse
Hot Line For Men And Women need to be further developed. It is likely that such resources
could be built into services already provided for men. When violent crime is considered in
general, men far outnumber women as victims (Felson, 2002). Often, male victims of these
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sorts of crimes appear in homeless shelters, at the YMCA, Salvation Army, Men's Mission, John
Howard Society or in the care of other such organizations. Staff and administrators of these
organizations, like the staff of similar organizations serving women, need training in issues
around PV to better recognize both violence victimization and perpetration so that that needs of
these men can be more adequately met.
Prevention messages should emphasize the importance of non-violence by women as
well as men. Relationship equity and effective methods of emotional expression and conflict
resolution are also important prevention targets. Such messages are important for reducing
interpersonal violence generally, and for preventing the negative consequences on
relationships. Prevention messages are most likely to be successful if they are focused on
healthy alternatives to expressing anger and frustration and if they avoid relying on fear as a
motivating factors. Efforts to prevent injury and death resulting from PV should continue to focus
on female victims. However, recognition of male victimization and provision of services for male
victims are needed, including services that will enable men to escape from a dangerously
violent situation such as have been provided for women.
Treatment programs for perpetrators of PV were developed almost exclusively by men
and women who embraced the feminist theory that PV is used by men to reinforce a patriarchal
social hierarchy Specifically, men were thought to be violent because cultural norms support
male dominance over women and provide no penalty for men's violence against women
(Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Straus, 1976; Yllo & Bograd, 1988). It was also generally assumed
that the men whose violence was recognized (e.g., by arrest or in treatment) were the "tip of the
iceberg" - such patterns of male dominance and abuse were thought to be a normal result of a
patriarchal social organization and were typical of a large proportion of male-female
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With the assumption that men’s abuse was a result of a patriarchal society, treatment
programs focused primarily on "re-educating" men. Men were challenged to give-up their
dominance in the family, avoid using their privilege as men in society to control women, and to
become involved in advocating for gender equity. The assumption was that a man who has
been violent has the skills and knowledge to behave in healthier ways, he simply chooses not to
in order to maintain his entitlement to power over his partner and over women in general.
Explanations of violence that referred to any other aspect of men’s history (e.g., childhood
abuse), circumstances (e.g., alcohol use), family (e.g., contributions of both members of the
couple to conflict), personality (e.g., depression, personality disorder) or interpersonal skills
(e.g., lack of communication and problem solving skills) were viewed as excusing male violence
and distracting from the main problem of men’s patriarchal and sexist attitudes. Treatments with
individuals or couples (e.g., anger control programs, couple treatment) were denounced and
made illegal in 43% of US states.
Critique of Past Efforts
There have now been over 50 empirical studies evaluating the success of batterer
treatment, using self-or partner-reports of assault or re-arrest as the basis for outcome. These
studies generally find that approximately two thirds of men who complete treatment programs
avoid physical reassault of their partners. However, men who do not attend batterer programs
cease assaulting their partners at similar rates. Experimental studies address this question
more accurately by randomly assigning men to receive, or not receive treatment, and then
following their progress over time. These studies almost uniformly report that treated and non-
treated men re-assault their partners at the same rate. In other words, these studies suggest
that batterer programs are no more effective than non-treatment at reducing assault (Babcock,
Green, & Robie, 2004; Levesque & Gelles, 1998). Clearly, improvements are needed.
In this final section, we add our speculations to those of others on ways to improve
treatment through better recognition of gender symmetry (Stuart, 2005). We make seven
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suggestions for assessment and treatment development. Many of these suggestions are
controversial, largely because of past misapplication (or concern about misapplication) to the
small proportion of male offenders who are immanently dangerous. However, it is only through
recognizing that most PV is mutual and only some violence is terroristic, injury-causing, fear-
provoking and unidirectional that we will begin to see improvements in rates of treatment
Assess all Presentations of Partner Violence for Dangerousness and Symmetry
A critical first step to improving treatment of PV is to critically assess all presenting
cases for both gender symmetry and dangerousness. Currently, the default assumption is that
violence is unidirectional (male to female), is intended to dominate and subjugate the partner,
does this by provoking fear of violence and actual violence, and is potentially lethal. As
reviewed, the vast majority of violence is bidirectional and, even in court-based samples, only a
proportion of cases fit the model of intimate terrorism where violence is used by one member of
the couple (usually the man) to dominate the other through fear and threats of harm.
Assessment of PV should tap dangerousness by means of an instrument such as the Danger
Assessment (Campbell, 2001, 1995), symmetry by means of an instrument such as the Conflict
Tactics Scales (Straus & Douglas, 2004; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996),
and risk factors for PV by means of an instrument such as the Personal And Relationships
Profile (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1999; Straus & Mouradian, 1999),
Because some PV is dangerous, assessors should separate men and women during
assessment and be prepared with safety plans for victims of injurious, fear-provoking violence.
Assessors also need to be well trained, so that they are able to safely follow-up on
inconsistencies and minimization in reports from men and women.
Avoid Exclusive Reliance on Feminist Theory
A second step for reform is review the theoretical basis of treatment programs for PV
offenders (Stuart, 2005). As discussed, batterer treatment programs were originally designed to
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change men's sexist attitudes and patriarchal entitlements, with the assumption that this attitude
change would translate to lower rates of PV. Support for this assumption is sparse. Although
studies show that patriarchy plays a more important role in predicting rates of violence at a
societal level (i.e., rates of violence are higher in more sexist societies, (
Archer, 2006; Straus,
1994) there is little evidence of the importance of sexism to predicting violence within a
particular society (Davis, Taylor, & Maxwell, 2000; Faulkner, Stoltenberg, Cogen, Nolder, &
Shooter, 1992; Feder & Dugan, 2002; Petrik, Olson, & Subotnik, 1994; Sugarman & Frankel,
1996). For example, Saunders and Hanusa (1986) found that among 92 men completing a 12-
week treatment program, changes in attitudes towards women's roles, jealousy, and threat from
female competency were unrelated to changes in men’s reports of abuse perpetration or their
partners’ reports of victimization. Thus, although the promotion of gender equality is an
important goal for society, it does not appear to be a critical target for treatment among men
already demonstrating PV.
Another problem for feminist theory is the assumption that violent men in treatment are
representative of normative patterns of male dominance. The use of severe, injury-provoking
violence is not normative for men (or women) in Euro-American societies and men who
perpetrate such violence are not representative of the population. Among men who have been
arrested for assault of an intimate partner, high proportions are alcoholic or have alcoholic
tendencies, many have narcissistic or antisocial characteristics, over half identify growing up in
families where their parents were physically abusive or had drug or alcohol problems. These
problem rates are all higher than population averages and suggest that these men are dealing
with a number of co-occurring social and psychological challenges.
Consider Replacing Educational “Intervention” With Cognitive-Behavioral Or Other
Empirically Validated Treatment
The short-term Batter Intervention Programs (BIP) offered across most of North America
may serve the function of sanctioning criminal behavior, much like attending remedial driving
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education classes might be used as a sanction for repeated speeding tickets. However,
because perpetration of severe and physically injurious violence is not normative, we suggest
that re-education will not be sufficient to promote change. Rather, a more therapeutic
orientation may be needed. Adopting a therapeutic orientation would have a number of
implications for batterer treatment programs. First, group sizes would need to be reduced from
the 20-25 men/group (common in programs using the Duluth model) to the 8-12 typically
recommended for group therapy. In addition, the relationship between therapist and clients
(acknowledged as one of the most important nonspecific factor for promoting change) would
need to be emphasized to a much greater extent than it is currently. Finally, there needs to be
more attention to investigating and using empirically supported treatment strategies,
There is a growing body of literature in support of a more therapeutic orientation to
treatment for men who have engaged in criminal forms of PV. Taft, Murphy Eilliott, and Morrel
(2001; 2003) found that therapeutic and group alliance factors were important predictors of
reduced recidivism regardless of other major differences in the style of treatment. Similarly,
Scott and King (In Press) have shown that use of a more supportive and engaging therapeutic
style with highly resistant clients reduces dropout and enhances change in abuse-supporting
attitudes. Focusing on psychological targets, rather than on re-education, has also been
supported. On the basis of a broad review of literature, Scott (2004) concluded that, to date, the
only variables that have reliably been associated with reductions in abusive behavior are
reductions in anger, alcohol and drug use, and level of psychopathology (e.g., level of
depression). Considerably more research in this area is needed for the development of
theoretically and empirically sound treatments for this client group.
Conduct Additional Research on Treatment Needs of Men and Women Who Have
Engaged In Partner Violence
The concept of "need" in a criminal context (Andrews & Bonta, 1998) is an attitude,
behavior, trait, or other factor that relates directly to an individual's likelihood of re-offending.
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Because research on treatment for partner violence has focused primarily on whether programs
are successful, rather than why programs might succeed, we currently know little about what
might promote change in PV. Dutton (2006) speculates that successful therapy of men who
perpetrate PV needs to address attachment needs and trauma symptoms. In particular, he
emphasizes the importance of anger management, stress tolerance, emotional regulation and of
a strong relationship between therapist and client where relationship issues can play out in a
therapeutic context. Other theorists, notably Murphy and Eckhardt (2005) include many of these
features, and emphasize enhancing client motivation to change, training in relationship skills
and addressing cognitive distortions of abusive partners. Both assert that change in clients’
emotion regulation, particularly anger, and in their patterns of thinking about and reacting to
relationships are key components to promoting change. More controversial are theories
suggesting that cessation of male violence is contingent of the female partner also ceasing
(Feld & Straus, 1989a; Straus, 2005) and theories suggesting that other characteristics of the
relationship between men and women, such as dyadic patterns of hostility and withdrawal, are
most important to promoting change. All of these theories need further empirical investigation
with samples of partners who successfully end their use of abusive behaviors both with and
without attending treatment.
Develop Better Strategies To Contain High-Risk, Repeat Offenders
Although most men charged with assault against their intimate partner avoid engaging in
subsequent physical abuse, approximately 25% of men repeatedly reassault their partners.
These repeat offenders are a critical focus of treatment and monitoring efforts. Longitudinal
studies suggest that reassaults are most likely to happen quickly, that repeat offenders tend to
engage in multiple re-offenses and that these men are responsible for the majority of injuries to
women (Gondolf, 2002).
To date, researchers have been relatively unsuccessful at reliably identifying those men
who are at high-risk for reassaulting their partners from data available at the beginning of
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treatment. However, the behavior of men during and after treatment does show moderate
predictive ability. For example, men who drop out of treatment and who are drunk in the months
following treatment are more likely to reassault. Women’s perception of safety is also a
significant predictor or men’s assaults (Gondolf, 2004; Weisz, Tolman, & Saunders, 2000).
These findings suggest that models of ongoing risk management might be superior to early
identification efforts. Risk management models involve models of ongoing risk management
involve periodic assessment of short-term risk, treatment or increased monitoring in response to
any immediate risk, and repeated risk reassessment over time (Fein, Vossekuil, & Holden,
1995). For example, on the basis of the finding that men who dropout of treatment are more
likely to reassault their partners than men who do not, dropout should initiate a system of
greater justice monitoring and the provision of additional information and support to potential
victims of violence, as well as reasonable sanctions for failing to comply with court-ordered
treatment. For those who do not succeed at ending their abusive behavior, more intensive and
highly monitored treatments should be an option. Drug courts and associated treatment
programs have pioneered work in this area, and batterer treatment system might profitably
consider similar models.
Develop theoretically and empirically-supported treatment programs for female offenders
There is a critical need for better understanding of women arrested for assault against
their partners and for the development of empirically-supported treatments for this population. In
response to pressure from the justice system (where, recently, women have been arrested in
about a quarter of calls for partner assault), many larger cities now run treatment programs for
female offenders. These programs tend to combine materials from traditional batterer treatment
and from trauma-based counseling approaches. Unfortunately, neither of these treatment
approaches are good models. Batterer program have been built on feminist assumptions that
make little sense when applied to female use of violence (i.e., how should women be re-
educated to avoid patriarchal attitudes and behaviors?). Trauma-based models, in contrast,
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focus on the resolving the impact of past victimization. Neither address needs of female
offenders for strategies to better express anger, assert needs, resolve interpersonal conflict and
make better relationship choices. Fortunately, there is a growing body of literature on the
treatment needs of female offenders (Dowd, Leisring, & Rosenbaum, 2005), their risk for re-
offense (e.g. Henning & Feder, 2004) and on the efficacy of treatment for this population
(Carney & Buttell, 2004; Carney & Buttell, 2006). In addition, some comprehensive treatment
programs have been developed. One example is the VISTA program in New Jersey (Larance,
2006). VISTA uses an ecological model to understand and contextualize women's use of
violence. When self-defense motives are identified, women are referred to a companion
program for victims of abuse. Assessment is ongoing throughout women’s involvement in the
program and aims to promote women’s understanding of the range of emotions, events, and
contributing factors to her use of aggression. Educational group sessions focus on educating
women on the links between shame and anger and on the impact of familial expectations on her
development, promoting women’s responsibility for their behaviors and for use of force in
relationships, and developing women’s skills for resolving problems and conflicts without
Consider Expanding Services In Couple Therapy And Restorative Justice
Finally, providers of treatment for DV should consider significantly expanding the range
of services offered. As previously noted, national surveys in the US and the International Dating
Violence Study have found that mutual violence is the typical pattern. Studies that have
investigated this issue find that both partners are violent in half the cases and the remaining half
are about equally divided between Male-Only, and Female-Only. This means that women are
violent in about three quarters of violence cases. Moreover, violence by the female partner is
an important risk factor for re-offending (Feld & Straus, 1989b; Gelles & Straus, 1988a). These
data indicate a need for treatment of both partners in a violent relationship, either couple
therapy or separately, even when only one partner is the presenting case. The need to attend to
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both partners in a relationship is made even more pressing in the light of the lack of evidence
for the effectiveness of “batter intervention programs” which treat only one partner.
Currently, the most likely professional resource that violent couples are likely to seek is
marital therapy. Cascardi et al., (1992) found that almost three quarters of couple-clients
seeking marital therapy reported at least one incident of PV in the past year, 86% of which was
reciprocal. There are a variety of theoretical perspectives on how to best address violence
within the context of couple therapy and they vary on the extent to which both members of the
couple are held responsible for escalation of conflict. One of the more promising models seems
to be Physical Aggression (see also Heyman & Schlee, 2003; O'Leary, 2001). Under this model,
each partner is held responsible for their own behavior, but both are taught to recognize cycles
of dysfunctional interaction and to respond with de-escalation strategies.
For partners who have been arrested for domestic violence, “restorative justice” (Daly &
Stubbs, 2007; Mills, 2003;
Strang & Braithwaite, 2002) is a promising approach that needs
further trial and research. Restorative justice is an alternative to the current retributive justice
system. In the current system the crime is considered an offense against the state, and the
state imposes penalties (retribution). Restorative justice seeks to rectify the harm by including
both the victim and the offender as parties in need of restoration. It addresses the harm to the
dignity and physical, psychological, economic, and social status of the victim, and seeks to re-
integrate the offender into society. For a court to assign a case to restorative justice both the
offender and the victim must be willing and there has to be a danger assessment before
proceeding. A meeting is arranged which includes all the stake holders – the offender, the
victim, a representative of the criminal justice system, and key people in the lives of the offender
and victim. The offender must acknowledge his or her wrongdoing and steps to rectify the harm
to the victims are developed and agreed on at the meeting. Subsequent to the meeting, the
case is monitored. If there is lack of compliance, the case goes back to the standard system of
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Both couple therapy and restorative justice must address the potential dangers of couple
work in violent relationships. Although this is a critically important issue, most of what has been
written reflects a mis-application of data from more extreme forms of violence to all partner
abuse. With appropriate screening, such as use of the of instruments such as Campbell’s
Danger Assessment scale (Campbell, 2001, 1995) and the Conflict Tactics Scales (Straus &
Douglas, 2004; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996), couples where there has
been significant injury, where one member of the couple denies violence, and where either
member of the couple is fearful can be excluded. The limited research that has been done on
couple therapy suggests that this form of treatment is at least as successful as group-based
treatment for reducing rates of violence recidivism (Stith, Rosen, & McCollum, 2003).
As with prevention, treatment efforts need to be differentiated according to the severity
of PV. Different approaches are needed for dangerous offenders than for couples who are
"situationally" violent (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000). Despite that, there are two general principles
that must be applied to enhance the effectiveness of PV treatment for all but the most extreme
and immanently dangerous level. The first principle is that most PV is mutual. The second
principle is that education about patriarchy and male privilege, although extremely important as
an end in itself, is a relatively minor risk factor for PV in Euro-American societies and is
therefore not likely to result in much change in those receiving this message. Changing PV will
require treatment that increases interpersonal relationship skills, and for the more severe levels
of PV, therapy to change the personality, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional underpinnings of
severely abusive behaviors. These treatments need to be offered in a variety of formats
including couples counseling, individual counseling and group treatment, and with varying levels
of criminal justice monitoring. To achieve this type of differentiated treatment requires more
systematic use of existing assessment methods to assess multiple risk factors for PV, and
development of new instruments so that appropriate screening and referrals can be made to
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each of these types of services.
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VF Gender Diff 4
20.0%19.0%% of Emergency room visits for PV (Annals of Emergency Medicine, 200??)
National Youth Survey (Wofford-Mihalic, Elliott, & Menard,,1994). Overall rate
8.9%8.8%Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Centers For Disease Control, 2006) Overall rate
0.9%1.3%National Violence Against Women Survey (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000) Overall rate
34.0%27.0 %Dunedin Health and Development Study (US Dept of justice 1999) Overall rate
National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey (Straus, 1995) Overall rate
National Co-morbidity Study (Kessler, 2001) Minor
4.2%British Crime Survey (1996) Overall rate
8.7.0%Canadian General Social Survey (1999) Overall rate
Canadian National Survey (Lupri, 1990) Minor
1985 National Family Violence Survey (Gelles & Straus 1990) Minor
1975 National Family Violence Survey (Straus et al 1980) Minor
FeMal e
Study Severity Of
As s au lt
Table 1. Examples of the Approximately 200 Studies Showing Gender Symmetry in Assaul
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... Comparing male-and female-perpetrated partner violence, their prevalence is similar, but the effects on women is greater (Straus, 2011;Straus & Scott, 2008). While women can be violent towards their partners, women are more fearful and far more likely than men to be injured during physical fights (Black et al., 2011;McCarroll et al., 2009); in fact, the only consistent difference between the effects of violence across the literature is that rate of injury and death are significantly higher for women (Straus & Scott, 2008). ...
... Comparing male-and female-perpetrated partner violence, their prevalence is similar, but the effects on women is greater (Straus, 2011;Straus & Scott, 2008). While women can be violent towards their partners, women are more fearful and far more likely than men to be injured during physical fights (Black et al., 2011;McCarroll et al., 2009); in fact, the only consistent difference between the effects of violence across the literature is that rate of injury and death are significantly higher for women (Straus & Scott, 2008). In the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (Black et al., 2011), most women reporting victimization had at least one negative impact, including fearfulness (72%), injuries (42%), and lost work-days (28%). ...
... In addition, she may be able recognize how he reacts to her outward display and alter that display to invoke a change in him to prevent his violent acts. Straus and Scott (2008) emphasized that by preventing minor violence escalation could be prevented and that reducing her violence had the potential to reduce his violence in retaliation. ...
Although previous research identified predictors of violent events within violent heterosexual couples, findings were limited to the woman's reports, to her perceptions; his assessments were not obtained. This exploratory study was conducted to gain understanding of proximal predictors of violence assessed in "real-time" from the perspective of both partners. Fifteen adult heterosexual couples in which the woman reported experiencing partner violence in the prior 30 days were enrolled in a primary care clinic. Each partner provided separate daily telephone reports for eight weeks via an automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR), concerning the previous day's violence, alcohol use, stressors, emotional reactions and concerns for children. Same-day correlates were determined by Pearson correlations while prior-day predictors were identified via vector autoregression. Same-day correlations show that men's violence was associated with almost every other variable while women's violence correlated with men's violence, men's drug use, women's alcohol use, anger, closeness, hassles, and all men's negative feelings. Using prior-day predictors, men's violence was related to feelings (primarily hers), but women's violence was more dependent upon feelings of both of them as well as women's prior-day violence and alcohol use. Men's violence was dependent upon their partners' prior-day feelings and the men's lack of concern about effects of violence on children. Women's violence was also dependent upon women's prior-day feelings, as well as women's violence, alcohol use, marital closeness, and men's concern for children. Although the co-occurrence of men's and women's violence has been seen before, in this study only women's violence was linked to alcohol use.
... Only a hand full of studies were directed towards male victims of intimate partner violence (Steinmetz, 1977-78). However, recent studies point to a gender symmetry in the perpetration of intimate partner violence (Archer, 2000;Fiebert, 1997;Straus, 2010). It has also been presented as bidirectional (Straus & Ramirez, 2007). ...
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The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between victimisation from intimate partner rape and two types of intimate partner aggression. A questionnaire was completed by 609 females and 420 males in Uganda. The age range was between 16 and 94 years. The mean age was 31.5 (SD 10.9) for females, and 34.4 (SD 11.3) for males. The questionnaire included scales for measuring the frequency of victimisation from intimate partner rape, controlling behaviour, and physical aggression from an intimate partner. Females had been significantly more often victimised from intimate partner physical aggression than males. No significant difference was found between females and males on victimisation from intimate partner controlling behaviour. Victimisation from physical aggression and controlling behaviour from a partner were also highly correlated with each other for both females and males. Respondents who had been more than average victimised from intimate partner rape scored significantly higher than others on victimisation from intimate partner controlling behaviour and intimate partner physical aggression. The association between victimization from intimate partner rape and victimisation from intimate partner controlling behaviour and physical aggression followed the same pattern for females and males.
... The gravity of the consequences associated with this public health issue demands an urgent implementation of cultural, legal and healthcare algorithms for protection and prevention of intimate partner violence [5,7,8,12,15,16,21,35,36]. ...
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“Gender inequality” and “gender-based violence” are paradigms that one hope would be extinct by the 21st Century, two cultural concepts that our society tries to disguise as dated, but that still exist in the form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in developed countries. In this literature review, we will describe IPV as a serious public health issue with high occurrence rates across the world, which requires an urgent implementation of protection and prevention measures. The extensive study of contents resulting from a search with the terms “intimate partner violence”, “domestic violence”, “prevention”, “violence against women”, “abuse”, “IPV” and “crime” allowed us to gather information on preventive measures and integrate updated statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO) and of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV). The measures of protection and prevention of this type of crimes demand a change of moral and legal behaviours around the globe, as well as the implementation of algorithms of functional performance that can be applied by health professionals at patient-directed services. In this literature review, we will present the “RESPECT”, “AVDR” and “HELP” algorithms. Keywords: “Intimate partner violence”, “domestic violence”, “prevention”, “violence against women”, “abuse”, “crime”, “IPV”, “AVDR”, “RESPECT”, “HELP”.
... These factors, in addition to sexual orientation, gender, age, social class, race, and citizenship status, have negatively influenced help-seeking decisions (Sabina et al., 2012). Some studies argue that IPV is gender symmetrical, indicating that men can also be victims of IPV (Chen & Chan, 2019;Johnson, 2005Johnson, , 2006Straus, 2009). Literature on gender differences shows definitively that on average, men seek help less often than women do for the full range of physical and mental health problems, including violence against men in IPV. ...
Intimate partner violence (IPV) literature has addressed differential socialization for designing interventions, mainly helping female victims and male perpetrators. From a gender-specific perspective, this study examines the abused men's postponed decisions to disclose victimization or seek help. Through individual interviews, 10 Chinese male IPV survivors in Hong Kong described their help-seeking journey. A three-pillar approach is applied to guide the analysis in terms of psychological factors, cultural barriers, and decisional challenges when men are seeking help. Results reveal negative influences bearing on male survivors' help-seeking behaviors and support how men can rebuild positive personal strengths after experiencing the impact of abuse on oneself and the family. Service providers must identify barriers of delayed help-seeking decisions and treat IPV survivors with respect and acceptance to facilitate abuse disclosure.
... Due to this notion, the gender paradigm came into existence as male victims of IPV are often met with suspicion or disbelief (27). Findings from meta-analyses point to gender symmetry in the perpetration of IPV (28,29,30), and some researchers have suggested that women are as violent as men (31), and that most acts of IPV are normally bidirectional (32). ...
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Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate victimization from intimate partner rape (IPR) in Uganda among both women and men, the effect of educational level, and psychological concomitants. Method: A questionnaire was completed by 609 females and 420 males in Uganda. The mean age was 31.5 (SD 10.9) for females and 34.4 (SD 11.3) for males. Results: Females reported significantly higher frequencies of victimization from IPR than males. Respondents with no education reported significantly higher frequencies of victimization than others. Respondents who had been more than average victimized from IPR scored significantly higher on depression and anxiety and had significantly lower self-esteem than others. Females who had been victimized more than average scored significantly lower on self-esteem than the other groups. Conclusions: Not only females but also males were found to have been victimized from IPR. Victimization was linked to increased levels of negative psychological concomitants in both females and males.
... Subsequently, others have made similar findings (Archer, 2004(Archer, , 2006 , 2010), and the term gender symmetry theory came into use, denoting the view that males and females are equally aggressive in intimate partner relationships. Straus has also published more recent studies on the topic (Straus, 2004(Straus, , 2006(Straus, , 2008(Straus, , 2009(Straus, , 2011. Bates et al. (2014) found in a sample of UK students that females actually were more physically aggressive to their partners than males, and that they also were more likely than males to be "intimate terrorists". ...
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Health Sciences have undergone a great transformation. University degrees such as Nursing, in its adaptation to the Bologna Plan, have seen how their studies went from a purely mechanistic conception (Haidar Torres,2015), as surgeon assistants, to the establishment of a university superior Degree where the students must develop and acquire a series of competencies and knowledge that are considered necessary for their future development as professionals.
Objectives. Analysis of gender differences in attribution of guilt to the aggressor and the victim of spousal violence, depending on the victim’ and the aggressor’ gender. Background. Studies of spousal aggression show that a man’s aggression towards a woman is perceived as typical aggression, attribution of guilt to the victim-wife is directly related to the faith in a just world and the aggressor-husband is attributed more guilt than the aggressor-wife. The connection of the attribution of guilt to the victim-husband with faith in a just world and the correlation between the attribution of guilt to the victim-husband and the attribution of guilt to the victim-wife, depending on the gender of the respondents, has not been sufficiently studied. Study design. We evaluated 1) correlation of attribution of guilt to participants in a typical and atypical situation of violence through the sample as a whole and separately for men and women, and 2) differences in the level of attribution of guilt to participants in their own and opposite gender group using the method of variance analysis. Participants. 1,157 people, including 679 women, aged 18 to 66. Measurements. The questionnaire included a survey form «Faith in a just world» (Dalbert C.) and a vignette describing the situation of marital violence in different-sex couples, the gender of the victim varied. Results. The attribution of guilt to the victim-wife is directly related to faith in a just world only among women; the connection of the victim-wife’s guilt with faith in a just world is reversed among men. Much guilt for a representative of its gender group is only shown when assessing the typical victim and aggressor. Conclusions. The results suggest that attribution of guilt to the victim and gender favoritism are only shown in case of the possibility of identification with the victim’s position.
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The victims of intimate partner violence are subjected to emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. The physical abuse often includes episodes of mechanical asphyxia and its most frequent mechanisms: throttling and strangulation. Non-fatal asphyxia situations have signs, symptoms and short-term or long-term consequences whose severity varies according to the intensity, duration and number of episodes. The extensive study of bibliographic contents available at the PubMed platform, which resulted from a search with the terms “intimate partner violence”, “domestic violence”, “strangulation”, “brain injury”, “PTSD”, “non-fatal lesions”, “asphyxia”, “forensic”, “neck compression”, “fatal lesions”, “prevention”, “violence against women” and “crime”, as well as the study of the books “Forensic Pathology”, “Medicolegal Investigation of Death”, “Medicina legal y toxicologia” and “Odontologia legal & antropologia forense” allowed to gather the most recent information on asphyxia in an intimate partner violence context. The typical signs of mechanical asphyxia are abrasions and contusions on the neck, which may or may not be visible, and the most common symptoms are neck pain, swallowing difficulties and sore throat. Among the several consequences, there is the possibility of developing brain injuries that might work to signal a non-fatal intimate partner violence situation or that lead to the victim’s death. The occurrence of asphyxia increases the victim’s likelihood of being murdered in the context of that intimate relationship. Given the severity of this public health issue, it becomes imperative to identify the victims of asphyxia in order to ensure the provision of healthcare and the application of measures of protection and prevention that are adequate to victims and survivors. Keywords: Intimate Partner Violence; Domestic Violence; Asphyxia; Strangulation; Brain Injury; PTSD; Choking; Forensic; Neck Compression; Violence Against Women
Intimate partner violence (IPV) has historically been perceived, and thus examined and explained, as a violent act perpetrated against women by men. However, self-report surveys indicate that heterosexual and gay males, as well as lesbians, experience IPV at similar rates as heterosexual women. The question of whether IPV victimization is experienced symmetrically, by both women and men, is more difficult to answer than the data would suggest. Many barriers prevent the reporting of IPV such as gender role expectations and heteronormative views of relationships. The Feminist Theory explains IPV as a form of power and control used to reinforce a patriarchal society, which explains a male-dominant or masculine perception of perpetrators. Other theories, such as Johnson’s Typology, suggest that the violence seen in IPV is bilateral in direction—or that both partners act as perpetrators and victims—which may explain gender-symmetry in IPV. To examine the question of gender symmetry in IPV, this chapter will describe the fundamental beliefs underlying the perceptions of relationships, partner and gender-roles, and the social norms that create our perceptions of IPV.
Although intimate partner violence (IPV) among older LGBT adults is associated with significant negative consequences—including mental and physical health problems, increased hospital and nursing home admissions, and a 300% increased risk of mortality—it remains an overlooked and understudied public health issue. This chapter reviews the limited body of research available regarding IPV among older LGBT adults including its estimated prevalence, risk factors (increased age, disability status, living in poverty), associated myths (caregiver stress drives IPV; older same-sex female partners do not engage in violent behavior), unique presentations (threatening to force a partner into a nursing home in which they are afraid to disclose their LGBT status), unique challenges (a lack of national survey data; sexual minority stress; life-long stigma; health disparities; limited legal protection), and barriers to assessment and treatment (inadequate responses from law enforcement; a lack of age- and LGBT-friendly shelters). Recommendations for future research, culturally competent practice, and policy are also presented.
The associations of frequent physical aggression, injury, and fear were examined for a community-based sample of at-risk young couples who were dating, cohabiting, or married. It was hypothesized that frequent physical aggression toward a partner, in the range of shelter samples, is largely caused by antisocial behavior and mutual couple conflict and, thus, that there would be greater similarity across genders in such behavior than has previously been supposed. It was also predicted that levels of injury and fear would be higher in women but that some men would experience these impacts. Findings indicated similarity across genders both in the prevalence of frequent aggression and in its association with antisocial behavior. Furthermore, such aggression was likely to be bidirectional in couples. Contrary to the hypothesis of the study, rates of injury and fear for the women were not significantly higher than for the men.
Despite numerous studies that report the preponderance of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, other empirical studies suggest that rates of domestic violence by women and men are equivalent. This article explores these claims of gender symmetry in intimate partners' use of violence by reviewing the empirical foundations of the research and critiquing existing sources of data on domestic violence. The author suggests methods to reconcile the disparate data and encourages researchers and practitioners to acknowledge women's use of violence while understanding why it tends to be very different from violence by men toward their female partners.
This paper examines three theories purporting to explain society-to-society differences in the rate of physical assau lts on women by their partners: feminist patriarchical society theory, conflict theory, and soc ial disorganization and control theory. A model incorporating the three theories was tested using data on the rate of husband-to-wife physical assaults in each of the 50 states of the U.S.A. The husband-to-wife assault rates were regressed on indexes to measure gender equality, income inequality, and social disorganization, plus five control variables. Significant relationships were found using the Gender Equality and Social Disorgani zation indexes, thus providing evidence in support of two of the three theories. Specifically, it was found that the greater the degree of inequality between men and women and the greater the extent of social disorganization, the higher the rate of assault on wives.