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Chapter 5 Intimate Partner Violence A Familiar Stranger Having just examined genocide and meat eating, we have visited the outermost margins of the field of criminology. Intimate partner violence (IPV), the focus of this chapter, is a much more typical object of criminological concern . It is a horrifically common sort of conventional violence. In the National Violence Against Women Survey of more than sixteen thousand men and women in the United States, 22.1 percent of the women and 7.4 percent of the men reported having experienced physical assault by a romantic partner. The survey determined that IPV accounts for most of the violence suffered by women in the United States (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000). Robert Thompson and colleagues (2006) arrived at an IPV prevalence rate of 7.9 percent in the prior year and 44 percent across one’s lifetime, based on a sample of 3,429 U.S. women. A multinational survey of more than twenty-four thousand women in ten countries, sponsored by the World Health Organization, found that the lifetime prevalence of IPV, including physical or sexual assault, ranged from 15 to a shocking 71 percent (Garcia-Moreno et al. 2006).1 Because IPV is most often a pattern of behavior rather than a one-time event, trauma and disruption can endure for lengthy periods (Rand and Saltzman 2003). All told, IPV causes a tremendous amount of suffering. 69 In this chapter I first revisit the question of the relationship between social distance and harm, scrutinized in chapter 2, which becomes especially problematic in regard to IPV. I make the case that certain discursively constructed cultural expectations of intimate partnerships promote the reduction of victims and consequently IPV. Especially relevant to IPV are expectations , discourses, and stories related to gendered power positions . The extreme division of male from female in societies and households most prone to IPV helps to resolve the contradiction suggested by the subtitle of this chapter—that of the familiar stranger. Second, I argue that, as with other types of harm, discourses of power and powerlessness promote IPV. In the case of IPV the violence promises to resolve a contradiction within a story of the relationship—that the rightfully empowered party is being deprived of power. As Jeff Hearn puts it, “Violence is an attempt to enforce that which is already not the case” (1998, 208). Hence too the bearing of Hannah Arendt’s formulation, that violence and power are opposites: “Violence appears where power is in jeopardy” (1969, 56). Unlike these scholars, I am concerned with storied power and storied powerlessness. Thus, I maintain my focus on the constructed states of being that motivate harmful action.2 Empirical underpinning for this chapter’s exploration comes mainly from thirty-eight studies published from 1979 to 2009 involving open-ended interviews with either batterers or with battering victims who recalled batterers’ verbalizations (table 5.1). They represent all those I was able to locate that report qualitative accounts by offenders, first or secondhand, the latter recalled by victims. In all cases except one, abusers were male and their victims were female.3 As shown in table 5.1, twenty studies included interviews with female victims only (some of which also involved staff interviews), nine with male perpetrators only, eight with both female victims and male perpetrators , and one with a man and a woman who were not a W h y W e H a r m 70 Table 5.1 Intimate Partner Violence Studies and Sample Information Author, Year Sample specifics Abraham (1999) 25 women recruited through social service organizations for battered South Asian women in three U.S. cities Anderson and 33 men participating in a program for batterers Umberson (2001) in a southwestern city of the United States Bergen (1995) 35 women who had obtained services from a battered women’s shelter or rape crisis center Bourgois (2003) 1 man and 1 woman (not a couple) involved in drug trafficking in New York City Bui (2002) 16 victims of wife abuse, three social workers, and three community members, all immigrants to the United States from Vietnam Burbank (1992) Residents of an Australian Aboriginal community Das Dasgupta and 12 women in contact with social service Warrier (1996) organizations for battered South Asian women Dobash and 109 women in Scotland; otherwise unspecified Dobash (1979) Draper (1992) !Kung people of Botswana Eisikovits (1996) 40 spouses (20 couples) in contact with local public social service agencies in Israel Fernandez (1997) 15 young, married women...


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