Domestic Abuse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter outlines the key definitional and aetiological issues surrounding domestic violence perpetration. It begins with a discussion of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on domestic abuse globally, before assessing international estimates of the percentage of women worldwide who have ever been physically or sexually assaulted by a partner. The second section of the chapter reviews the British historical literature to show how Victorian concern with the protection of respectable women from ‘wife-beaters’ yielded to a medical-psychiatric discourse that blamed hysterical women for provoking men with quick tempers. It then outlines how twentieth-century feminist accounts reframed the problem of ‘wife-beating’ in efforts that exposed the roles of sexism, inadequate legal protection, and gender inequality in perpetuating a ‘continuum’ of abuse against women under patriarchy. The third part of the chapter appraises the critique of gender-based perspectives provided by psychological studies, some of which point to ‘gender symmetry’ in the perpetration of domestic violence and some of which reveal personality differences between perpetrators and non-violent men; as well as sociological studies that expose how the intersections between gender and ethnicity, sexuality and age manifest themselves, both in incidents of domestic violence and in official reactions to them. The chapter concludes by pointing to the challenge of finding a common voice capable of capturing the collective experiences of those in need of protection from domestic violence as well as the need to find ways of responding to perpetrators whose attitudes, motives, backgrounds are not necessarily identical to each other.
Keywords: domestic violence; coercive control; gender-based violence; abuse; perpetrators; victims; intersectionality
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Criminology
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Domestic abuse, gender based violence


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