Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Toward a Gender-Inclusive Conception of Intimate Partner Violence Research and Theory: Part 2-New Directions

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Toward a Gender-Inclusive Conception of Intimate Partner Violence Research and Theory: Part 2-New Directions

Article excerpt

In an article previously published in this journal (Hamel, 2007) the author contradicted the patriarchal paradigm which has guided domestic violence research, intervention and policy for the past three decades. The current article critically examines the two major alternative models, beginning with the post-patriarchal/asymmetry paradigm, which acknowledges that most intimate partner abuse consists of "situational" or "common couple" violence, which is conflict-driven, has relatively minor consequences, and is initiated by women as well as men. However, this model incorrectly assumes that men perpetrate the overwhelming majority of severe abuse, known as "battering" or "intimate terrorism." The article concludes with a discussion of the gender-inclusive model, which holds that intervention and policy should draw upon all of the available data. According to the latest research, most domestic violence is mutual, men and women emotionally abuse and control one another at approximately equal rates, intimate terrorists are equally likely to be male or female, men suffer one-third of physical injuries, and males and females are equally affected by emotional abuse. In short, domestic violence is a human and relational problem, not a gender problem. Implications of these findings are discussed with respect to prevention, intervention and policy.

Keywords: intimate partner abuse, intimate terrorism, battering, domestic violence, gender inclusivity

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The patriarchal conception of intimate partner violence (IPV) contends that IPV is perpetrated by men who are motivated by a need to dominate their female partners and maintain male privilege. When women are violent, it is assumed to be in self-defense and its consequences, if any, are thought to be negligible (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Pagelow, 1981; Pence & Paymar, 1993; Walker, 1979). Recently, the author (Hamel, 2007a) presented preliminary evidence drawn from research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s on male personality and batterer typologies, contextual factors, and relationship variables as measured in the laboratory, evidence that contradicts the patriarchal model of IPV.

Recently, many of the statistics on IPV and its theoretical underpinnings have been challenged by researchers, policy-makers and intervention providers, giving birth to a new model of IPV theory and treatment. In this article, an overview is given of the post-patriarchal/asymmetry paradigm of IPV, a research trend that represents to some extent an improvement over the patriarchal model. (1) The article concludes with a discussion of the gender-inclusive model, one that eschews simplistic, ideologically-driven explanations, promotes evidence-based practice, and seeks to more efficiently reduce domestic violence in the community.

The Post-patriarchal/Asymmetry Paradigm

Some feminist gender theorists early on conceded that male batterers could be driven by both instrumental and expressive motives (Yllo, 1993), a "finding" that Goldner (1998) incorporated in her conjoint model of feminist therapy for couples with a violent man. By the end of the 1990s, Pence (1999), one of the founders of the Duluth Intervention Project had begun to rethink some of her own views:

   I found that many of the men I interviewed did not seem to
   articulate a desire for power over their partner. Although I
   relentlessly took every opportunity to point out to men in the
   groups that they were so motivated and merely in denial, the fact
   that few men ever articulated such a desire went unnoticed by me
   and many of my coworkers. Eventually, we realized that we were
   finding what we had already predetermined to find.

   ... Activists have for years faced the accusation that women who
   "claim" to be battered are often lying about the abuse.... For
   more than a decade, the DAIP and shelter advocates reacted to this
   constant undercurrent of "women are liars" by arguing that "women
   are saints. … 
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