Not All Types of Domestic Violence Are the Same

The vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are men. One study in England and Wales showed that 93.9 percent of convicted abusers are male. But it is no less hurtful to a man to be victimized. This is a serious crime that requires legal intervention whether the perpetrator is male or female.

Why are there more male than female batterers? Women are not socialized to dominate in a marriage. Men get societal messages all the time that it’s okay to dominate. More often than not, women don’t have the strength to overpower a man. When asked, most men will admit they are not afraid of their partners. More often a male who is battered is the result of a manipulative event, rather than a pattern of power and control. Women offenders tend to have insight and remorse. They view violence as negative and recognize they have committed a wrong. Whereas, men who batter lack insight and genuine remorse leading to a desire to change.

Not all types of domestic violence are the same. There is battering, resistive violence, and non-battering violence. Most of us know that battering is a pattern of intimidation, coercion and violence as well as other tactics of control to establish and maintain a relationship of dominance over a partner. Few are familiar with resistive violence. This is the use of force in response to another’s coercive and controlling tactics. It is a tactic to either stop or contain the abuse they are experiencing. Typically, a victim tries to stop the abuse through a series of strategies. They start with the use of negotiation, appeals to family and friends, appeasing the batterers, becoming angry themselves, separation, withdrawal, and finally the use of force. Non-battering violence is a third type of violence. It is situational and is not an ongoing pattern to exert control or a response to being controlled. It is violence that may stem from mental health or chemical dependency issues.

Understanding the context of violence is critical. Failing to distinguish one kind of domestic violence from another can endanger victims of ongoing violence. It can result in inappropriate responses by law enforcement, prosecutors and the court, advocates and counselors. It can also embolden perpetrators. For example, the arrest of an individual who committed a violent act on a given day does not necessarily serve justice if they used resistive violence to stop a pattern of battering. They may have used force for self defense, out of fear, self -preservation, to protect kids, or to leave. People will resort to violence if they believe they have no other choice than to be killed. And if they are arrested and wrongfully charged with domestic battering, the batterer may try to use it to further manipulate their victim.

When we learn of acts of domestic violence, let’s not rush to judgment about whom the offender is and who the victim is. Life is often more complicated. In order to better understand the context, we need more information. We need the answers to the following questions:

1. Do you think they will seriously injure or kill you, your children, or someone else close to you? What makes you think so? Do they have access to a gun?

2. How frequently do they assault you? Describe the time you were the most frightened or injured by them.

3. Do they initiate unwanted contact either electronically or in person? Describe the unwanted contact. How often?

4. How frequently do they intimidate or threaten you? Have they intimidated or threatened you regarding talking to the police or seeking help from the court?

5. Have they ever forced you to do things sexually you didn’t want to do?

Police officers gather this information to determine risk of serious harm. They assess whether violence is a pattern of abuse. They try to understand the victim’s perception of risk and level of fear. They gather information on the presence of firearms, threats to kill, prior attempts to strangle, and forced sex. They look for evidence of escalating physical violence over time, stalking, witness intimidation and use of threats against children and pets.

If you are a victim of violence and are ready to seek help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). There are no fees, no names, no judgment.

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