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Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form


Richard L. Davis,
the author of "Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies", Praeger Publishers, Westport CT (1998), retired after 21 years of service with the Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department, he is a Domestic Violence Intervention and Programs consultant.

Richard L Davis Articles:



In, Understanding Violence Against Women, (Crowell and Burgess, 1996 p.4) note that “Although there appear to be some similarities and some differences between generally violent behavior and violence directed at women, the extent of the similarities and differences remain unknown.” Perhaps because the majority of funding for research comes from the Violence Against Women Office, the similarities are infrequently researched and seldom reported.

     People, regardless of age or gender, use violent behavior for three basic reasons (Felson, 2002):

* To change or alter the behavior of another in order to suit their desires;* Revenge, retribution or seeking justice for a real or perceived wrong;

* To defend or advance their standing in the family or community.

     If you are likely to be assaulted or killed, male or female, the odds are that you are going to be assaulted or killed by someone you know rather than by a stranger.

     Between 1976 and 1996, 64% of female victims were killed by their husbands, 5% by ex-husbands and 32% by partners/boyfriends. Of male victims, 62% were killed by their wives, 4% by ex-wives and 34% by partners/girlfriends. From 1976 to 1996 31,260 women and 20,311 men were murder by an intimate partner (Greenfeld, 1998).

     Approximately 30% of females who are murdered, are murdered by a husband or intimate partner. While murder is the most serious of crimes it is also the least common ((Hendricks, McKean & Hendricks, 2003). The Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook, Violence by Intimates, document that intimate partner violence accounts for about a fifth of the total amount of criminal violence against females (Greenfeld, 1998).

     The National Violence Against Women Survey reports that, “The data show that violence is more widespread and injurious to women’s and men’s health than previously thought – an important finding for legislators, policymakers, intervention planners, and researchers as well as the public health and criminal justice communities.”  The report documents the annual rate of intimate partner assaults was 44.2 per 1,000 women and 31.5 per 1,000 men (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000 p. iii).

     The United States Department of Justice, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice, documents that in a recent Gallup Poll, respondents were asked, “In most families people get mad at each other for one reason or another. Thinking about your own situation, have you, yourself ever been physically abused by your spouse or companion?” About 8 percent of males and 22 percent of females replied, ‘yes’ (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, www.albany.edu/sourcebook/.)”

Power and Control

It is generally recognized that the issue of unequal power, control, and economic resources can influence any violent act, not just violence against women. It is generally agreed that the issue of unequal power, control, and resources affects child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner, and elder abuse, regardless of the age or gender of the offender (Chalk & King, 1998).

     The reasons for violence within the family most often reflect the various theories concerning violence in general (Brownstein, 2000). Most stranger and family violent acts involve power, domination, and threats to harm whereby the offender intends to impose predetermined outcomes on strangers or family members (Felson, 2002). Obviously, those predetermined outcomes are designed to benefit the offender.

     The majority of characteristics of domestic violence are similar to those of stranger crime (Hendricks, McKean & Hendricks, 2003). The majority of criminologists understand that the two most dominant variables for crimes are opportunity and ability (Barolw & Kauzlarich, 2002).

     When confronted with the fact that more women physically assault children than men, the reason most often offered for that behavior is that more children reside with women than men (Flowers, 2000). That factor provides women with both the opportunity and ability.

     The most apparent distinction between domestic violence and stranger violence is the location and number of offenders and victims. There is little real distinction in the dynamics.

     Men are more physically violent against women in the home than in public. Similarly, women are more physically violent against men in the home than in public. Both men and women are more physically violent towards children in the home than they are in public.

  The National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) at the University of Michigan, http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/NACJD/home.html documents that, by percentage of total crime, men are victims more often than women. Criminal justice data from the above site also document that women suffer more than men as victims in the home. However, given the percentage of total crime by women, women commit more of their violence in the home than do men.

     Few argue that in domestic violence incidents women suffer more serious injuries and sexual assaults than men. Women also suffer more psychologically and economically than men (Crowell & Burgess, 1996). However, the use of violence by females can not be minimized, legitimatized or ignored because males cause greater injury (Kelly, 2003).

     Violence by strangers, friends, family or intimate partner can be expressive, instrumental or a combination of both. Expressive violence rises from feelings of anger, rage, or hate. Instrumental violence is when an offender uses force or violence to achieve short or long term goals. Spanking, its proponents claim, is used to achieve a goal (instrumental).

     However, most studies document that parents are "upset and angry" when they spank a child (expressive). Domestic violence, regardless of the age or gender of the offender or victim, can be expressive, instrumental, or often a combination of both (Hendricks, McKean & Hendricks, 2003).

     Women use less violence than men to achieve specific goals. Most women understand that because of their lack of physicality, the results of their violent behavior may not produce positive outcomes for them. Men are not violent against women in particular and in fact men are far more violent against other men. Some men are more violent than others and some women are more violent than some men (Ghiglieri, 1999).

     In the early 1970's Samuel Yochelson and Stanton E. Samenow produced their classic multi-volume work titled, The Criminal Personality. They were concerned with determining what behaviors chronic criminals shared. They identified 53 patterns of thought and action, which they said were present in all 255 offenders. "They described criminals as untrustworthy, demanding, and exploitive of others, with little capacity for love. Habitual offenders were said to harbor a persistent anger, which could boil over at any time," (Schmalleger, 1999 p. 113).

     Most criminals and domestic violence abusers exhibit similar, sometimes sociopathic behavior. Both criminals and abusers believe their needs are more important than the needs of others. Both have a lack of empathy and compassion for others. However, many criminals and abusers have learned when not to exhibit their aggression, violence and anger. They do not exhibit antisocial or violent behavior unless they have reason to believe that the results will be positive for them.


 In the classic study of criminal violent behavior of adult males by Marvin Wolfgang, “Delinquency in a Birth Cohort” found that approximately 6 percent of violent chronic criminals account for about 70 percent of all violent crime in America (Ghiglieri, 1999).

     A National Institute of Justice report, The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner Violence: New Evidence From the Spouse Assault Replication Program, documents that 8 percent of victims of domestic violence reported repeat victimization that accounted for more than 82 percent of the 9,000 incidents studied (Maxwell, Garner, Fagan, 2001).

     Given all of these facts there should be a common, non-divisive, understanding that domestic violence is child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner and elder abuse. Because of these commonalities, intervention for both stranger and domestic violence crimes should focus sanctions and programs primarily toward the violent and chronic offenders. And, because of limited resources, assistance should be provided first and foremost for victims, regardless of age or gender, who are marginalized by their socioeconomic and educational status and/or their lack of public, private, and familial resources and support.


Barlow, H.D. & Kauzlarich, D. (2002). Introduction to Criminology. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
       Prentice Hall
Brownstein, H. H. ((2000). The Social Reality of Violence and ViolentCrime. Boston: Allyn and
Bureau of Justice Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/welcome.html
Chalk, R., & King, P. A. (Eds.). (1998). Violence in Families. Washington, DC: National

Academy Press.
Crowell, N.A. & Burgess, A.W. (Eds.). (1996). Understanding Violence Against Women.
       Washington, DC: National Academy Press
Felson, R.B. (2002) Violence & Gender Reexamined. Washington, DC: American
       Psychological Association
Flowers, R.B. (2000), Domestic Crimes, Family Violence and Child Abuse. Jefferson, N.C.:
       McFarland & Company, Inc.
Ghiglieri, M.P. (1999). The Dark Side of Man. Reading, MA. Perseus.
Grenfield, L.A. et al., (1998) Violence by Intimates. Washington, DC: Department of Justice,
       Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Hendricks, J.E., McKean, J. & Hendricks, C.G. (2003) Crisis Intervention, 3rdEd., Springfield, Illinois: Thomas Publishers, Ltd.
Kelly, L. (2003) “Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Abuse” Florida State University Law
 Review N. 4, V. 30: 791-855
Maxwell, C.D., Garner, J.H., Fagan, J.S. (2001) The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner
         Violence: New Evidence From the Spouse Assault Replication Program. Washington,
         DC: Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) at the University of Michigan,
Schmalleger, F. (2001) Criminal Justice Today. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
       Prentice Hall
Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, www.albany.edu/sourcebook/.)”
Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (2000) Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and
 Consequences of Violence Against Women. Washington, DC: Department of Justice. National Institute of Justice

Copyright 2003 Richard L. Davis rldavis@post.harvard.edu



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