Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Synopsis

Draws on data from a study of police behaviour in the field, interviews with criminal justice professionals and social service providers, and participant observations of female offender programs. Offering critical analysis of the theoretical assumptions, this book unveils a reality that looks different from what statistics on domestic violence imply.

Excerpt

It would be foolish to claim that women do not use violence. Globally, women have been leaders or participants in political revolutions, protests against government, and acts of terrorism (Dasgupta 2002). In the most private of spheres, the home front, women commit acts of abuse against children and the elderly. They join gangs that perpetrate violence, are members of New Right hate groups that advocate violence, and engage in violence against their female partners in lesbian relationships. Indeed, women do participate in violence. However, the key question that guides the research conducted for this book is simply this: within intimate relationships in which women use violence, are they batterers? The question is profoundly important because of the rise in the numbers of arrests of women for domestic violence and the increased tendency of the criminal justice system to mandate arrested women to treatment programs often intended to address male batterers' behavior.

Accurately answering this question depends upon an understanding of the definition of battering and the contextual meanings of violence that occur within a relationship, as well as a thorough examination of the history of victimization. Some people confuse the issue, counting all uses of force the same and treating all users of violence similarly, which challenges much of the research that reveals that most domestic violence perpetrators are male while most victims are female. Although the bulk of women's violence entails self-defensive force, under some circumstances women do initiate violence or retaliate past hurts with violence. These facts are (mis)used to claim mutuality in abuse and to suggest that there are as many, if not more, [battered husbands] as there are [battered wives] in society. This contradicts the preponderance of research findings, namely that a more contextual examination of women's use of violence within relationships demonstrates that its use is related to their male partner's abuse. This division in the interpretation of women's use of violence stems from the nature of the methodology . . .

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