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Recent studies of domestic violence emphasize that the resiliency of patriarchy rests on ideologies that distinguish responsible exercise of power from abuse. While acknowledging the contribution of such analyses, this article explores the limits of public sanctions on wife beating and shifts the focus back toward women's own efforts to resist violence. Although wives in late colonial and early republican Peru sought protection from neighbors and local authorities, such strategies often were unsuccessful. As a result, many women took matters into their own hands. Although attacking female rivals as the cause of marital problems pitted women against each other, such actions also challenged the prerogative of church and state to set and enforce limits of proper marital conduct. Some women went even further by acting as if they had a right to leave abusive spouses, a recourse prohibited by husbands and civil and religious authorities alike.