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Victim or Offender?: Heterogeneity Among Women Arrested for Intimate Partner Violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Violence Volume: 21 Issue: 6 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 351-368
Kris Henning; Brian Renauer; Robert Holdford
Date Published
August 2006
18 pages
This study used self-report and criminal justice data to classify 485 women convicted on intimate partner violence (IPV) into distinct subcategories.
The analysis indicated that the women convicted of heterosexual IPV could be divided into four distinct subcategories: (1) no prior violence; (2) primary aggressor; (3) primary victim; and (4) primary aggressor not identified. Findings indicated that as a group, the male partners of these women were more violent and controlling than the women themselves. Couples in which the male was the primary aggressor were between three and eight times more prevalent than couples in which the female was the primary aggressor. Self-report data revealed that over half the cases involved a male primary aggressor while arrest data indicated that 60 percent of cases involving prior police contact had a primary male aggressor. Around 8 percent of women were considered the primary aggressor. The findings suggest that there is more similarity among women arrested and convicted of IPV than has previously been acknowledged. Additionally, the data suggest a relationship pattern of IPV consistent with women using violence as a self-defense tactic. Participants were 485 women convicted of domestic assault against a male intimate partner in Shelby County, TN. Participants completed questionnaires regarding their demographic information, their relationship, the offense for which they were arrested, prior relationship aggression, prior police involvement, domestic violence recidivism, family history, legal history, and mental health. Data were also drawn from the county-level arrest records of the participants. Data analysis involved the calculation of difference scores in relationship aggression using the women’s self-reported and police-reported IPV victimization and perpetration. Future theoretical and empirical research is necessary to build knowledge of the small but growing group of women who are arrested for IPV. Tables, references