Domestic Violence Theories, Research,
and Practice Implications
MARY P. BREWSTER
Violence against women has received unprecedented attention during the past decade. The first piece of federal legislation addressing intimate violence, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), was passed by Congress in 1994 and brought greater legal protection for abused women and stiffer penalties for batterers. Congress also increased funding for domestic violence research and for programs to protect women from domestic violence perpetrators. Media coverage of the VAWA has also increased public awareness of the issue of domestic violence.
Despite the increased acknowledgment of battering, ambiguity and contradiction abound with respect to definitions of domestic violence, statistics regarding the prevalence and incidence of the problem, explanations of domestic abuse, and research findings on battering. This chapter addresses each of these areas and discusses implications for programs and policies. 1
Definitions of domestic violence vary. Two areas of disagreement are described by Garner and Fagan (1997): “the nature of the acts that constitute ‘violence’ and the types of relationships that qualify as ‘domestic’” (p. 54). Some definitions have been limited to acts that intend to cause physical harm to another (e.g., murder, rape, assault), while others have also included threats of physical harm and intimidation. Still others have expanded the