Useful Distinctions

  • Battering or "intimate terrorism." (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000; Pence & Dasgupta, 2006) These terms connote a systematic and enduring pattern of behaviors that establishes dominance over a subordinated partner, such that the partner is seriously constrained in his or her freedom to think, make decisions, or act.
  • Situational violence or common couple violence (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000; Hamel, 2005). The indicators here are that violence is occasional and not severe; the "victim" does not have generalized fear of her partner; both partners use violence sometimes; neither partner is coercively controlled by the other. Because violence often escalates and because the impulse to minimize violence is great within a committed relationship, it is not always easy to distinguish this from intimate terrorism with any confidence.
  • Violent resistance. Victim uses violence as a way to protect her/himself or children.
  • We may agree that any physical violence, verbal assault, or restriction on social contacts is wrong or at least undesirable. However, not all such behavior constitutes battering. People in intimate relationships almost inevitably have moments when they are hurtful to each other. Occasional hitting, shoving and name-calling may be experienced in many relationships without inducing generalized fear or physical injury.
  • This is not to say that situational violence should be disregarded. It can escalate, and can be dangerous. In addition, both partners in a couple are likely to minimize the violence as long as they remained committed to their relationship. Safety planning and close attention to other indicators of danger are still warranted.