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Commentary on Johnson's "Conflict and Control": Gender Symmetry and Asymmetry in Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 12 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 1019-1025
Evan Stark
Date Published
November 2006
7 pages
This article offers a commentary on an article by Michael Johnson (contained in the same journal) that proposes there are four distinct types of domestic violence.
The field of domestic violence research has been dominated, the author claims, by a definition of domestic violence that equates abuse with specific acts of violence. One result of this narrow view of domestic violence is that criminal justice interventions have failed to reduce the problem, mainly because the vast majority of domestic violence involves minor assaults that would not be considered felonious acts. However, when domestic violence is reframed as an issue of control and subordination rather than simply discrete violent acts the view of domestic violence changes to encompass many types of controlling acts that are mainly perpetrated by men. In Johnson’s article, he identifies and describes four types of intimate partner violence that are defined by both specific acts of violence as well as aspects of control: (1) intimate terrorism in which the individual is violent and controlling but the partner is not; (2) violent resistance in which the individual is violent but not controlling and the partner is violent and controlling; (3) situational couple violence in which the individual is violent but the individual and partner are not violent and controlling; and (4) mutual violent control in which both the individual and the partner are violent and controlling. The author of the current article links these types of intimate partner violence to the research literature on coercive control that focuses on how domestic violence encompasses controlling behaviors as well as discrete violent acts and argues that it is time to recognize that the coercive control of women by men is not simply “domestic” nor is it mainly “violent.” References