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Technical Report for "An Empirical Examination of a Theory of Women's Use of Violence in Intimate Relationships"

NCJ Number
Date Published
40 pages
The primary goal of this study was to develop a comprehensive, theory-driven approach to understanding women's violence by empirically examining a theory of women's violence in intimate relationships.
Quantitative interviews were conducted with a community sample of 112 White, 150 African-American, and 150 Latina women. In addition to the quantitative portion of the study, 11 focus groups were conducted to assess the role of culture, ethnicity, and race in women's motivations for and beliefs about their use of violence in relationships. To be included in the study sample, a woman must have committed at least one physically violent act against a male partner in the previous 6 months. The study examined the women's violence in the context of their victimization from male partners; and it explored women's motivations for using violent behavior as well as the strategies they used to cope with violence in their relationships. Also measured were the women's experience of childhood abuse and the status of their mental health. The study found that the women were more likely to have experienced coercive control, sexual coercion, injury, and stalking from their intimate partners than they were to have engaged in these behaviors against their partners. Many participants were apparently battered women. The women's motivations for their violent behaviors were complex and stemmed from a combination of factors. Many women used violence in self-defense, but many also used violence to control their partners, with jealousy being a frequent motivation. Poverty and a range of mental health problems also characterized the majority of women. The findings suggest that the context for women's violence against their partners is different from that of men who abuse their female partners. Understanding these differing contexts is important in tailoring an appropriate criminal justice response to domestic violence cases that involve women as perpetrators. 12 tables and the screening form

Date Published: January 1, 2004