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Victims as Offenders

Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Victims as Offenders
    Book Description:

    Arrests of women for assault increased more than 40 percent over the past decade, while male arrests for this offense have fallen by about one percent. Some studies report that for the first time ever the rate of reported intimate partner abuse among men and women is nearly equal. Susan L. Miller's timely book explores the important questions raised by these startling statistics.

    Are women finally closing the gender gap on violence? Or does this phenomenon reflect a backlash shaped by men who batter? How do abusive men use the criminal justice system to increase control over their wives? Do police, courts, and treatment providers support aggressive arrest policies for women? Are these women "victims" or "offenders"?

    In answering these questions, Miller draws on extensive data from a study of police behavior in the field, interviews with criminal justice professionals and social service providers, and participant observation of female offender programs. She offers a critical analysis of the theoretical assumptions framing the study of violence and provides insight into the often contradictory implications of the mandatory and pro-arrest policies enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. Miller argues that these enforcement strategies, designed to protect women, have often victimized women in different ways. Without sensationalizing, Miller unveils a reality that looks very different from what current statistics on domestic violence imply.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3776-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 Defining the Dilemma
    (pp. 1-13)

    These statements illustrate the varied situations experienced by many women who find themselves arrested on domestic violence charges by an incident-driven criminal justice system that responds uniformly to cases of domestic violence without examining the motivations and consequences of such acts.¹ In the two examples above, the authorities believed that the women broke the law, and these acts determined their subsequent arrests. By following the letter of the law, however, law enforcement officers often disregard the context in which victims of violence resort to using violence themselves. Often, what is most revealing are the antecedents to the incident that many...

  6. Chapter 2 The Controversy about Women’s Use of Force
    (pp. 14-37)

    Under certain circumstances, women can be as aggressive as men (Bandura 1973; White and Kowalski 1994). There is a vast difference, however, between aggression and violence used in self-defense against an aggressor. The removal of the violent behavior from its context creates inaccuracies. Yes, some women hit. Some women use force in ongoing relationships or against former partners. There is no denying that women share some of the same base emotions with men: anger, jealousy, revenge. Women cannot be essentialized as the feminine, delicate counterpoint to men’s masculine, aggressive self; this image belies reality and disempowers women by denying them...

  7. Chapter 3 The Research Project: Female Offenders and the Criminal Justice System
    (pp. 38-49)

    The material presented in this book reflects the culmination of a three-year research project. Through my various professional connections and friendships within the domestic violence community in a mid-Atlantic state, people would tell me about their concern that they were seeing more and more women arrested on domestic violence charges. They wondered what it meant: Was there something triggering an increase in women’s use of force? Was there a change in criminal justice policies that affected police arrest strategies? Or some other explanation? I was puzzled, too, despite the anecdotal nature of such informal inquiries. I began to search the...

  8. Chapter 4 On the Beat: The Police Ride-Along Study
    (pp. 50-76)

    As the initial responders to a domestic violence call for help and as the “street level” interpreters of the law, police play an integral part in implementing domestic violence policy. Day in and day out, police are exposed to people’s problems and have to interpret people’s behavior, officially responding to it within the parameters of the law. While law enforcement strives to be nonselective and evenhanded, officers’ personal attitudes, beliefs, and priorities shape their actions. Given their exposure to the complexities of citizens’ private lives, police officers also make wonderful informants about social problems such as domestic violence.

    This chapter...

  9. Chapter 5 After Arrest: Criminal Justice Professionals and Social Service Providers
    (pp. 77-90)

    This chapter focuses on the perceptions and experiences of criminal justice professionals and social service providers who play a direct role in addressing the issue of women arrested for domestic violence.¹ Thirty-seven structured, indepth interviews were conducted, during which respondents answered a number of set questions as well as took the opportunity to raise additional issues they deemed relevant. Each interview began by asking respondents if they felt that women’s violence against their partners was increasing, and if so, would this change account for the increase in the number of women arrested.

    Without exception, none of the respondents (e.g., treatment...

  10. Chapter 6 A Day in the Life: Inside a Female Offender’s Treatment Group
    (pp. 91-112)

    This chapter accomplishes two goals. First, it documents the process of a female offender’s treatment group, and second, it describes the ongoing themes that characterize the sessions within an analytical framework. Each session consists of a ninety-minute block of time, and I have reconstructed a typical group meeting by using a compilation of several groups’ transcripts. Redundancy is filtered out and readers have a more complete picture of the kinds of conversational exchanges that happen during the treatment sessions. The synthesis of several group sessions is the best representation of the kinds of issues that are raised and discussed by...

  11. Chapter 7 The Contexts of “Violent” Behavior
    (pp. 113-129)

    This chapter explores the different types of behavior exhibited by women that led them to be arrested on domestic violence charges.¹ To reiterate some information about the research design from chapter 3, weekly participant observation of the three treatment groups was conducted over six months; ninety-five women attended the programs. Group sessions were tape-recorded and later transcribed. Following grounded-theory methods, themes were utilized only if they were discussed at length by at least three of the women in the groups.

    Three uses of violence were identified in the data from the participant observation conducted with the treatment groups: generalized violent...

  12. Chapter 8 Implications
    (pp. 130-144)

    Regardless of their role in the system or the nature of their experiences with violent women, respondents in this study unanimously agree that women’s violence differs significantly from men’s violence. While not all violence stems from women’s responses to victimization, a clear pattern emerged. Typically, women’s use of force is in response to their current or former partner’s violence or can be characterized as a reaction that results from past abuses and their relative powerlessness in the relationship.

    Although the police and the rest of the criminal justice system—at least from a policy standpoint—have answered the call to...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 145-150)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 151-154)
  15. References
    (pp. 155-168)
  16. Index
    (pp. 169-176)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-177)