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Victims as Offenders

The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Susan L Miller

Publication Year: 2005

Arrests of women for assault increased more than 40 percent over the past decade, while male arrests for this offense have fallen by about one percent. Some studies report that for the first time ever the rate of reported intimate partner abuse among men and women is nearly equal. Susan L. Miller’s timely book explores the important questions raised by these startling statistics.

            Are women finally closing the gender gap on violence? Or does this phenomenon reflect a backlash shaped by men who batter? How do abusive men use the criminal justice system to increase control over their wives? Do police, courts, and treatment providers support aggressive arrest policies for women?  Are these women “victims” or “offenders”? 

             In answering these questions, Miller draws on extensive data from a study of police behavior in the field, interviews with criminal justice professionals and social service providers, and participant observation of female offender programs. She offers a critical analysis of the theoretical assumptions framing the study of violence and provides insight into the often contradictory implications of the mandatory and pro-arrest policies enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. Miller argues that these enforcement strategies, designed to protect women, have often victimized women in different ways. Without sensationalizing, Miller unveils a reality that looks very different from what current statistics on domestic violence imply.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

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...

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pp. xiii-xiv

A book of this scope incurs a lot of gratitude, both personal and professional. The seeds of this project began to grow in 1994, when I was invited by Claire M. Renzetti to write a summary piece for a special issue of Violence and Victims. In the journal, Kevin Hamberger and Theresa Potente’s article about the implications of treatment...

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Chapter 1: Defining the Dilemma

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pp. 1-13

These statements illustrate the varied situations experienced by many women who find themselves arrested on domestic violence charges by an incident-driven criminal justice system that responds uniformly to cases of domestic violence without examining the motivations and consequences of such acts.1 In the two examples...

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Chapter 2: The Controversy about Women’s Use of Force

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pp. 14-37

Under certain circumstances, women can be as aggressive as men (Bandura 1973; White and Kowalski 1994). There is a vast difference, however, between aggression and violence used in self-defense against an aggressor. The removal of the violent...

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Chapter 3: The Research Project: Female Offenders and the Criminal Justice System

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pp. 38-49

The material presented in this book reflects the culmination of a three-year research project. Through my various professional connections and friendships within the domestic violence community in a mid-Atlantic state, people would tell me about their...

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Chapter 4: On the Boat: The Police Ride- Along Study

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pp. 50-76

As the initial responders to a domestic violence call for help and as the “street level” interpreters of the law, police play an integral part in implementing domestic violence policy. Day in and day out, police are exposed to people’s problems and have to interpret people’s behavior, officially responding to it within the parameters...

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Chapter 5: After Arrest: Criminal Justice Professionals and Social Service Providers

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pp. 77-90

This chapter focuses on the perceptions and experiences of criminal justice professionals and social service providers who play a direct role in addressing the issue of women arrested for domestic violence.1 Thirty-seven structured, indepth interviews were...

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Chapter 6: A Day in the Life: Inside a Female Offender’s Treatment Group

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pp. 91-112

This chapter accomplishes two goals. First, it documents the process of a female offender’s treatment group, and second, it describes the ongoing themes that characterize the sessions within an analytical framework. Each session consists of a ninety-minute block of time, and I have reconstructed a typical group meeting by using...

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Chapter 7: The Contexts of “Violent” Behavior

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pp. 113-129

This chapter explores the different types of behavior exhibited by women that led them to be arrested on domestic violence charges.1 To reiterate some information about the research design from chapter 3, weekly participant observation of the three treatment...

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Chapter 8: Implications

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pp. 130-144

Regardless of their role in the system or the nature of their experiences with violent women, respondents in this study unanimously agree that women’s violence differs significantly from men’s violence. While not all violence stems from women’s...


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pp. 145-150


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pp. 151-154


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pp. 155-168


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pp. 169-176

About the Author

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pp. 177

E-ISBN-13: 9780813537764
E-ISBN-10: 0813537762
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813536705

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2005