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Academic Apartheid: Segregation in the Study of Partner Violence

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The study of men's violence against their intimate partners is segregated from the study of other forms of violence. Comparing intimate partner violence (IPV) to other violence, however, allows one to examine whether the motivation and the legal response are similar. I examine whether men's assaults on partners are particularly likely to have a control motive, whether women's assaults on partners are particularly likely to be motivated by self-defense, and whether intimate partner violence is less likely to be reported to the police and legally sanctioned. The evidence casts doubt on the feminist approach, which has dominated the study of IPV. I suggest that a theory of instrumental violence provides a better understanding of IPV. Such an approach recognizes a variety of motives and emphasizes the role of conflict in intimate relationships, sex differences in strength and violence, and the importance of chivalry. Finally, I suggest that social scientists who study IPV should be more careful in their descriptive terminology.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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