U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Female Offenders in Domestic Violence: A Look at Actions in Their Context

NCJ Number
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma Issue: 1 Dated: (1997) Pages: 115-127
L K Hamberger
Date Published
13 pages
A sample of women arrested for domestic violence was asked questions about the frequency of violence initiation, which partner began the overall pattern of violence in the relationship, and women's reasons for resorting to violence.
The sample included 52 women arrested for domestic violence, both before and after the institution of mandatory arrest. Most women were Caucasian (84 percent) or African American (14 percent); 37.2 percent were in intact marriages, 15.7 percent were separated, and 19.6 percent were divorced. Many women reported experiencing abuse within their families of origin, 73 percent reported initiating the use of violence at some time in their relationships, and 25 percent reported initiating violence 100 percent of the time. About 37 percent of the women said their male partners initiated violence 100 percent of the time. At least three women who reported initiating violence more often than their partners qualified their responses by noting that partners exclusively initiated the violence for several years prior to the point at which women initiated the violence. About two-thirds of women were battered and used violence to protect themselves or to retaliate for previous violence against them. The most frequent reason given by women for using violence against their partners involved self-defense. Implications of the findings for conceptualizing women's violence and for training law enforcement personnel are discussed. 16 references and 2 tables