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"We're Not Victims": Women's Use of Violence in Their Intimate Relationships


"We're Not Victims": Women's Use of Violence in Their Intimate Relationships

Lambo, Lesley (2019) "We're Not Victims": Women's Use of Violence in Their Intimate Relationships. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This doctoral research examines women who engage in or initiate violence in their intimate relationships. Through qualitative in-depth interviews with twenty-five women who were mandated to undergo treatment for intimate partner violence and participant observation of the support groups, I examined the reasons and justifications used by women to explain why they resort to violence as a strategy in conflict with their intimate partners. An integral part of this study was also the manner in which women reflect on, and shape their gendered identities, specifically as female perpetrators of intimate partner violence. The subsequent comprehensive analysis of the participant’s narratives, depicts their experiences of IPV, illustrates how these women view their world and how violence mediates the manner in which they construct and shape their gendered identities. The narratives also highlight the limited discourse within which female perpetrators of intimate partner violence use to frame their behaviour.

This study situates itself within a body of literature that is polemical in nature and ideologically divided with respect to women’s use of violence in their intimate relationships. On the one hand, intimate partner violence is understood to be heavily gendered and asymmetrical. This paradigm argues that a patriarchal and male-dominated society and culture sustains male violence against women and when women resort to violence toward a male partner, it is either reactive or in self-defence. On the other hand, proponents of gender symmetry consider intimate partner violence to be gender neutral where women are as likely as men to perpetrate violence. Gender is not considered a significant factor and when women commit acts of violence, they use similar motivations and justifications to men. This study situates itself somewhere in between these two perspectives, i.e. that women are as likely as men to perpetrate intimate partner violence but suggest that gender is a mediating factor.

The findings from this study reveal that women are capable of a significant level of violence and coercive control in their relations with their non-violent intimate partners. In contrast, self-defence or retaliation was not a causal factor in the participant’s justification for resorting to violence. The narratives of the women in this study provide an essential insight into their subjective experiences of intimate partner violence, the manner in which women construct their gendered identity as perpetrators rather than victims of IPV, and the processes that result in their use of violence and aggressive behaviour. Therefore, although intimate partner violence is a human issue, a gendered response in the form of treatment, intervention, policy and protocol is required. This study provides evidence-based and empirical research that can serve to inform gender appropriate protocols for female perpetrators of IPV.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Sociology and Anthropology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Lambo, Lesley
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Social and Cultural Analysis
Date:February 2019
Thesis Supervisor(s):Synnott, Anthony
ID Code:985157
Deposited On:10 Jun 2019 20:46
Last Modified:10 Jun 2019 20:46
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