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Profile of Female Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence in an Offender Population: Implications for Treatment

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Despite evidence that the incidence of female-to-male intimate partner violence (IPV) in the general population is as high as that of male-to-female intimate violence, until recently little attention has been devoted to understanding women perpetrators of partner violence or to the design of programs to address their violence. This study explored the characteristics of female perpetrators of IPV in an offender population and examined the context, consequences, and motives for their aggression. There were 897 women serving a federal sentence in the Correctional Service of Canada at the time of data extraction, of whom 15% (n = 135) had a history of IPV. Results indicated that these offenders were most often classified as moderate criminal risk and high criminogenic need. Most had been victims of severe abuse during their youth and in adult relationships. Women's motives for violence were diverse. Although most women had a history of mutual violence with their partners, 64% were the primary perpetrators in at least 1 incident. Violence in self-defense or in defense of their children were the least frequently coded categories. Similar to a comparison group of male offenders, the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment tool indicated that the most common risk factors associated with women's IPV included past physical assault against intimate partners, substance abuse, and employment problems. These findings reinforce the need for a correctional programming targeting the diverse circumstances and motivations of women who are violent against their partners.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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