This commentary revisits a core dilemma in “Controversies involving Gender and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States” by Langhinrichsen-Rohling (2010), how to reconcile gender parity in the use of force by partners with the gender asymmetry in the dynamics and effects of partner abuse. This dilemma is a byproduct of a domestic violence paradigm that confounds the normative use of violence in families and relationships and the types of partner assault and coercive control targeted by the advocacy movement. I argue that the dimensions of abuse victims present at points of service contradict the basic assumptions of the paradigm and outline an alternative model of coercive control that sets violent acts in their historical, experiential and political context.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, D. (1988). Treatment models of men who batter: A pro-feminist analysis. In K. Yllo & M. Bograd (Eds.), Feminist perspectives on wife abuse (pp. 176–199). Newbury Park: Sage.
Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 651–680.
Berk, S., & Loseke, D. (1980). “Handling” family violence: Situational determinants of police arrests in domestic disturbances. Law and Society Review, 15, 317–346.
Buzawa, E., & Buzawa, C. (2003). Domestic violence: The criminal justice response (3rd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.
Buzawa, E., & Hotaling, G. (2001, June). An examination of assaults within the jurisdiction of Orange District Court, Final Report. Washington: National Institute of Justice. June.
Buzawa, E., Hotaling, G., Klein, A., & Byrne, J. (1999, July). Response to domestic violence in a pro-active court setting: Final report. Washington: National Institute of Justice.
Caliber Associates. (2002). Symposium on DV prevention research. Washington: Department of Defense.
Campbell, J., Rose, L., Kub, J., & Nedd, D. (1998). Voices of strength and resistance: A contextual and longitudinal analysis of women’s responses to battering. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 743–762.
Connecticut Department of Public Safety (2008). Family violence arrests 2006, Crimes Analysis Unit, Division of State Police, Hartford CT.
Dasgupta, S. D. (2002). A framework for understanding women’s use of nonlethal violence in intimate heterosexual relationships. Violence Against Women, 8, 1364–1389.
DeKeseredy, W. (2000). Current controversies on defining nonlethal violence against women in intimate heterosexual relationships: Empirical implications. Violence Against Women, 6, 728–746.
Dempsey, M. M. (2009). Prosecuting domestic violence: A philosophical analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.
Dutton, D. G. (2005a). Domestic abuse assessment in child custody disputes: Beware the domestic violence research paradigm. Journal of Child Custody, 2(4), 23–42.
Dutton, D. G. (2005b). On comparing apples with apples deemed nonexistent: A reply to Johnson. Journal of Child Custody, 2(4), 53–64.
Dutton, M. A., & Goodman, L. (2005). Coercion in intimate partner violence: Towards a new conceptualization. Sex Roles, 52, 743–756.
Ellis, D., & Stuckless, N. (1996). Mediating and negotiating marital conflict. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Felson, R. B. (1996). Big people hit little people: Sex differences in physical power and interpersonal violence. Criminology, 34, 433–452.
Frieze, I. (2005). Hurting the one you love: Violence in relationships. Belmont: Wadsworth.
Gelles, R. J. (1995). Domestic violence not an even playing field. Retrieved from http://www.serve.com/zone/everyone/gelles.html.
Gelles, R. J. (1997). Intimate violence in families (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Gelles, R. J., & Straus, M. A. (1988). Intimate violence: The causes and consequences of abuse in the American family. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Gondolf, E. (1988). Who are those guys? Toward a behavioral typology of batterers. Violence and Victims, 3, 187–203.
Graham-Kevan, N., & Archer, J. (2008). Does controlling behavior predict physical aggression and violence to partners? Journal of Family Violence, 23, 539–548.
Hall-Smith, P., Tessaro, I., & Earp, J. (1990). Women’s experiences with battering: A conceptualization from qualitative research. Women’s Health Issues, 5, 173–182.
Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and recovery, the aftermath of violence: From domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.
Hirschel, D., Buzawa, E., Pattavina, A., Fagglani, D., & Reuland, M. (2007). Explaining the prevalence, context and consequences of dual arrest in intimate partner cases (Report No. NCJ 218355). Washington: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
Jacobson, N., & Gottman, J. (1998). When men batter women: New insights into ending abusive relationships. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Johnson, M. P. (2006). Conflict and control: gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. Violence Against Women, 12, 1–16.
Johnson, M. P. (2007). Domestic violence: the intersection of gender and control. In L. L. O’Toole, J. R. Schiffman, & M. K. Edwards (Eds.), Gender violence: Interdisciplinary perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 257–268). New York: New York University Press.
Johnson, M. P. (2008). A typology of domestic violence: Intimate terrorism, violent resistance and situational couple violence. Lebanon: Northwestern University Press.
Jones, A., & Schechter, S. (1992). When love goes wrong. New York: Harper Collins.
Klaus, P., & Rand, M. (1984). Family violence. Special report. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Klein, A. (2009). Offenders and the criminal justice system. In E. Stark & E. Buzawa (Eds.), Violence against women in families and relationships (Vol. 3, pp. 115–133). New York: Praeger.
Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (2010). Controversies involving gender and intimate partner violence in the United States. Sex Roles, this issue.
Loseke, D. L. (1992). The battered woman and shelters: The social construction of wife abuse. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Macmillan, R., & Kruttdschnitt, C. (2005). Patterns of violence and women: Risk factors and consequences (Report No. 2002-IJ-CX-0011, NCJ 208346). Washington: Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
Mooney, J. (1993). Domestic violence in North London. Middlesex: Middlesex University, Centre for Criminology.
Morgan, S. (1982). Conjugal terrorism: A psychology and community treatment model of wife abuse. Palo Alto: R&E Research Associates.
Okun, L. (1986). Woman abuse: Facts replacing myths. Albany: State University of New York Press.
O’Leary, K. D., Barling, J., Arias, I., Rosenbaum, A., Malone, J., & Tyree, A. (1989). Prevalence and stability of physical aggression between spouses: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 263–268.
Phelan, M. B., Hamberger, L. K., Hare, S., & Edwards, S. (2000, August). The impact of partner violence on male and female emergency department patients. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, Illinois.
Rees, A., Agnew-Davies, R., & Barkham, M. (2006, June). Outcomes for women escaping domestic violence at refuge. Paper presented at the Society for Psychotherapy Research Annual Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Saltzman, L. E. (2000). Guest editor’s introduction. Violence Against Women, 6, 699–704.
Schafer, J., Caetana, R., & Clark, C. L. (1998). Rates of intimate partner violence in the united states. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 1702–1704.
Schechter, S. (1982). Women and male violence: The visions and struggles of the battered women’s movement. Cambridge: South End.
Serum, C. (1979, December). The effects of violent victimization in the family. Paper presented to the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Ann Arbor, MI.
Singer, M. (1979, December). The nature of coercive control. Paper presented to the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Ann Arbor, MI.
Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stark, E., & Flitcraft, A. (1996). Women at risk: Domestic violence and women’s health. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Straus, M. (1995). Trends in cultural norms and rates of partner violence: an update to 1992. In M. A. Straus & S. M. Stith (Eds.), Understanding causes, consequences and solutions (pp. 30–33). Minneapolis: National Council on Family Relations.
Straus, M. A. (1998) Characteristics of the national violence against women study that might explain the low assault rates for both sexes and the even lower rate for women. (Unpublished manuscript). Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.
Straus, M. A., & Gelles, R. J. (1990). How violent are American families? Estimates from the national family violence resurvey and other studies. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8, 145 families (pp. 95–112). New Brunswick: Transaction.
Swan, S. C., & Snow, D. L. (2002). A typology of women’s use of violence in intimate relationships. Violence Against Women, 8, 286–319.
Swan, S. C., Caldwell, J., Sullivan, T., & Snow, D. L. (2009). Women’s use of violence with male intimate partners. In E. Stark & E. Buzawa (Eds.), Violence against women in families and relationships (Vol. 3, pp. 48–67). New York: Praeger.
Teske, R. H., & Parker, M. L. (1983). Spouse abuse in Texas: A study of women’s attitudes and experiences. Huntsville: Sam Houston State University, Criminal Justice Center.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Prevalence, incidence and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the national violence against women survey. Washington: National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Prevalence and consequences of male-to-female and female-to-male intimate partner violence as measured by the National Violence Against Women Survey. Violence Against Women, 6, 142–167.
Tolman, R. (1989). The development of a measure of psychological maltreatment of women by their male partners. Violence and Victims, 4(3), 159–177.
Uniform Crime Reports. (2006). Adapted from homicide trends in the United States. Washington: US Department of Justice. Retrieved from US Department of Justice website: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/homtrnd.htm.
Young, I. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Stark, E. Do Violent Acts Equal Abuse? Resolving the Gender Parity/Asymmetry Dilemma. Sex Roles 62, 201–211 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9717-2
- Coercive control
- Domestic violence
- Sexual inequality