AbstractDifferent notions among researchers about the nature of intimate partner violence have long been the subjects of popular and academic debate. Research findings are contradictory and point in two directions, with some revealing that women are as likely as men to perpetrate violence against an intimate partner (symmetry) and others showing that it is overwhelmingly men who perpetrate violence against women partners (asymmetry). The puzzle about who perpetrates intimate partner violence not only concerns researchers but also policy makers and community advocates who, in differing ways, have a stake in the answer to this question, since it shapes the focus of public concern, legislation, public policy and interventions for victims and offenders. The question of who are the most usual victims and perpetrators rests, to a large extent, on ‘what counts’ as violence. It is here that we begin to try to unravel the puzzle, by focusing on concept formation, definitions, forms of measurement, context, consequences and approaches to claim-making, in order better to understand how researchers have arrived at such apparently contradictory findings and claims. The question also turns on having more detailed knowledge about the nature, extent and consequences of women's violence, in order to consider the veracity of these contradictory findings. To date, there has been very little in-depth research about women's violence to male partners and it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider this debate without such knowledge. We present quantitative and qualitative findings from 190 interviews with 95 couples in which men and women reported separately upon their own violence and upon that of their partner. Men's and women's violence are compared. The findings suggest that intimate partner violence is primarily an asymmetrical problem of men's violence to women, and women's violence does not equate to men's in terms of frequency, severity, consequences and the victim's sense of safety and well-being. But why bother about the apparent contradictions in findings of research? For those making and implementing policies and expending public and private resources, the apparent contradiction about the very nature of this problem has real consequences for what might be done for those who are its victims and those who are its perpetrators. Worldwide, legislators, policy makers and advocates have developed responses that conceive of the problem as primarily one of men's violence to women, and these findings provide support for such efforts and suggest that the current general irection of public policy and expenditure is appropriate.
The British Journal of Criminology – Oxford University Press
Published: May 1, 2004
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