Apples and oranges in child custody disputes: Intimate terrorism vs. situational couple violence

Michael Johnson

In response to Dutton's critique of feminist theories of domestic violence, the author of this article makes three points relevant to the debate about the gender asymmetry of intimate partner violence. First, there are three major types of intimate partner violence, only one of which (intimate terrorism) is the kind of violence that we all think of when we hear the term “domestic violence.” Second, both major types of sampling designs in domestic violence research are seriously biased, and those biases account for the fact that both sides of this debate have been able to marshal ostensibly contradictory empirical evidence for their position. Third, intimate terrorism (also know as domestic violence, spouse abuse, wife-beating, etc.) is, indeed, primarily male-perpetrated and, in the case of heterosexual relationships, probably best understood through some version of a feminist theory of domestic violence. The author then discusses the implications of these points for assessment of risk in child custody deliberations.

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