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A Typology of Domestic Violence

Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence

Michael P. Johnson

Publication Year: 2008

Reassesses thirty years of domestic violence research and demonstrates three forms of partner violence, distinctive in their origins, effects, and treatments Domestic violence, a serious and far-reaching social problem, has generated two key debates among researchers. The first debate is about gender and domestic violence. Some scholars argue that domestic violence is primarily male-perpetrated, others that women are as violent as men in intimate relationships. Johnson’s response to this debate—and the central theme of this book—is that there is more than one type of intimate partner violence. Some studies address the type of violence that is perpetrated primarily by men, while others are getting at the kind of violence that women areinvolved in as well. Because there has been no theoretical framework delineating types of domestic violence, researchers have easily misread one another’s studies. The second major debate involves how many women are abused each year by their partners. Estimates range from two to six million. Johnson’s response once again comes from this book’s central theme. If there is more than one type of intimate partner violence, then the numbers depend on what type you’re talking about. Johnson argues that domestic violence is not a unitary phenomenon. Instead, he delineates three major, dramatically different, forms of partner violence: intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and situational couple violence. He roots the conceptual distinctions among the forms of violence in an analysis of the role of power and control in relationship violence and shows that the failure to make these basic distinctions among types of partner violence has produced a research literature that is plagued by both overgeneralizations and ostensibly contradictory findings. This volume begins the work of theorizing forms of domestic violence, a crucial first step to a better understanding of these phenomena among scholars, social scientists, policy makers, and service providers.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Series: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-4

The horrors of domestic violence are now all too well known and are regularly addressed in the mass media.2 Most of us have seen movies about domestic violence, or watched an episode of our favorite television drama that dealt with the issue, or seen it discussed on talk shows, in general interest magazines, or...

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1: Control and Violence in Intimate Relationships

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pp. 5-24

In order to understand the nature of an individual’s use of violence in an intimate relationship, you have to understand its role in the general control dynamics of that relationship. Some people use violence as one of many tactics in a general strategy aimed at taking complete control over their partner, as in the case of the newlywed husband...

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2: Intimate Terrorism: Controlling Your Partner

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pp. 25-47

Thanks to the second wave of the women’s movement, we actually know a good deal about intimate terrorism, more than we know about the other forms of domestic violence. Because one of the major successes of the women’s movement has been to draw attention to the problem of wife beating, we have the benefit of thirty years...

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3: Fighting Back: Violent Resistance

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pp. 48-59

Because intimate terrorism is perpetrated primarily by men against their female partners, what we know about violent resistance is mostly about women. Research from shelters and other agencies indicates that most victims of intimate terrorism do at some point react violently to their partner’s abuse, and the heart of this chapter will deal with that...

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4: Conflicts That Turn Violent: Situational Couple Violence

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pp. 60-71

Sometimes violence occurs even in relationships in which there are no sinister attempts to control one’s partner or the need for one to resist such attempts. Intimate relationships inevitably involve some level of conflict, situations in which one partner wants what the other does not. In most cases such conflicts are addressed and resolved...

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5: Implications for Intervention, Prevention, and Research

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pp. 72-86

We have to make distinctions. It makes no sense to treat intimate partner violence as a unitary phenomenon. A slap from an intimate terrorist who has taken complete control of his partner’s life is not the same as a slap from a generally noncontrolling partner in the heat of an argument, and of course neither of these is the same as...

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Appendix A: Identifying Intimate Terrorism and Other Types of Partner Violence

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pp. 87-101

The task of identifying the different types of intimate partner violence seems simple on the face of it. You start by finding out if the individual is violent, then you look into whether that violence is accompanied by a general pattern of coercive control, and you place all of this information in the context of the same information about his or her...

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Appendix B: Stalking and Separation-Precipitated Violence

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pp. 102-104

To tell the truth, I simply didn’t know where to put this material; it “belongs” in the chapters on intimate terrorism, on violent resistance, and on situational couple violence. Much postseparation violence and stalking are essentially a continuation of intimate terrorism after the abuser has lost the easy access afforded by living with his victim;...

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Appendix C: Gender and Intimate Partner Violence

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pp. 118-109

Let me begin with a reminder that in heterosexual relationships the strongest correlate of type of intimate partner violence is gender. Intimate terrorism is perpetrated almost entirely by men, and the violent resistance to it is from their female partners. The gendering...


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pp. 111-140


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pp. 141-154


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pp. 155-161

E-ISBN-13: 9781555537418
E-ISBN-10: 1555537413
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555536930
Print-ISBN-10: 155553693X

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 6 figs.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law