Gabrielle Ferrales and Suzy Maves McElrath
Gender-based violence is one of the oldest sustaining features of war but has received significant scholarly attention only in the past two decades. Much of this work, however, focuses selectively on sexual violence, specifically rape by men against women. Mirroring the focus of recent social science research, this essay reviews the treatment of gender-based violence during recent and ongoing conflicts, identifying three theoretical paradigms that offer explanations for this violence based on gender inequality theory, social control theory, and strategies of warfare. The essay recommends that future researchers employ a more expansive conception of gender-based violence, deconstruct the dichotomous understanding of victim and perpetrator, and afford greater attention to the role of intersectionality in explaining gender-based violence during war. Such a reconceptualization will advance our understanding of the multitude forms gender-based violence assumes during armed conflict and facilitate more adequate theoretical explanations for the phenomenon.
Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Denise A. Hines
This article summarizes current knowledge concerning child abuse in the United States. It discusses major approaches to assess the incidence and prevalence of child abuse, including the national family violence surveys (NFVS), national incidence studies (NIS), and national child abuse and neglect data system (NCANDS) surveys. It mentions the estimates of abuse rates provided by the different data sources, apparent changes in prevalence rates over time, and possible explanations of these changes. This article considers ethnic differences in rates of child abuse and data relating to these differences. It provides an overview of competing definitions of child abuse and the major theories for its occurrence. It concludes with the description of the criminal justice system's response to the problem and implications of research for public policy.
Denise A. Hines
This article presents data on the prevalence of domestic violence and trends over time. It discusses five major analytical frameworks that have been employed to understand domestic violence: patriarchy theory, systems theory, alcoholism, personality dysfunction, and ecological models. It further mentions criminal justice system policies such as mandatory arrest, no-drop policies, protective orders, and batterer treatment programs. This article deals with female batterers and distinctive problems they raise for law enforcement and treatment policies. It is also concerned with how societal structures, socioeconomic status, stressful situations, and family dynamics contribute to domestic violence. Programs that focus on psychological issues, anger problems, communication problems, and couple interaction problems are often ignored by domestic violence advocates and prohibited by state laws. Finally, it concludes with the discussion of the policy implications of current knowledge.
Violence involving intimate partners may appear at first glance to be an intractable problem. But the character and incidence of intimate-partner violence have varied dramatically among societies and over time in ways that can help scholars, policymakers, and the public understand the circumstances that place intimate partners at risk. Intimate-partner violence can be triggered by government policies that are designed to encourage freedom, equality, and prosperity if officials are blind to the impact of those policies on gender relations. Intimate-partner violence can also be increased by the devastation and demoralization of conquered communities or concentrated and intensified in the households of men who fail or refuse to come to grips with the empowerment of women and the economic and cultural changes that facilitate it. The challenge will be to design public policies that have a benign impact on domestic partnerships and that recognize the risks as well as the benefits of the movement toward gender equality.
Stacey Lynne Williams, Daniel Kevin McKelvey, and Irene Frieze
Despite decades of research on intimate-partner violence (IPV), debates and unanswered questions abound in the literature, to which many disciplines—psychology, sociology, criminal justice, law, and public health—have contributed. One long-standing and particularly contentious debate regards gender symmetry, or whether women are as violent in intimate relationships as men. This essay begins with a historical overview of IPV research; it then summarizes recent work on gender and IPV and discusses how estimates of the prevalence and gender distribution of IPV vary depending on its definition and measurement. Reviewing the literature on the heterogeneity of IPV, this essay notes that better understanding of different IPV types may resolve some discrepancies in research. The essay also considers how gender norms may shape IPV and reviews research on experiences of sexual minorities and of those of different races, immigration statuses, and cultures. The final section identifies topics in need of further exploration over the next decade.
Lisa L. Sample and Emily C. Radar
The way in which we define rape and domestic sexual assault, the rates at which it occurs, the motives for offending, and the legislative and criminal justice responses have varied across and within nation-states over time. This essay covers the historical context of rape laws, legal definitions of rape over time, how definitions of rape vary across nations, and the inclusion of domestic sexual assault in rape definitions. It reviews the rates of rape over time across nations using official and victimization data. It discusses the motives offered to explain, rationalize, or justify forced sexual assault and analyses the legislative and criminal justice responses to rape across countries over time. The essay concludes with a discussion of how rape definitions, laws, and criminal justice responses may continue to evolve.
This essay focuses on the role of law and policy in sexual assault and offending. Comparing and contrasting U.S., Canadian, and European policy approaches, the review examines how various governments have prioritized their legal approaches to sexual offending prevention and response. These responses have included broad-based conviction-focused schemes, narrowly focused laws centered on high-risk repeat offenders, and prioritization with stranger-based assault. There has been great variance in terms of the emphasis placed on treatment and public notification. The essay analyses how these nations have learned from each other and how their sex offending policies have evolved, if and how they reflect the science of sexual offending and risk, and which demonstrate the most promise for sexual assault reduction with the fewest unintended consequences.
This article studies the development of punishment policies for sex offenders. It observes the difficulty of creating treatment and management strategies for the surveillance of sex offenders, especially when these define a broad group. It then reviews some relevant treatment literature, which determines that it is not very promising for more serious sex offenders, since the interventions that have been tried so far have not decreased reoffending. However, these interventions appear to reassure the public.
Rosemary Gartner and Maria Jung
Although homicide is less common than other types of violent crime, research on its relationship to sex and gender is relevant to key debates within criminology over the value of general theories of violence, the relationship between social change and crime, and the importance of cross-national analyses of violence. This essay summarizes macro- and micro-level research on homicide offending and victimization since the mid-twentieth century and engages with the questions of whether and how sex and gender should be fundamental to theories of homicide or interpersonal violence more generally. Similarities and differences in the correlates and contexts of homicides by and against women and men are discussed, drawing on data from around the world. The essay concludes that sex and gender have always been and will continue to be central to understanding homicide, but more comprehensive conceptualizations of both gender—that is, as more than an attribute of individuals—and gender inequality are necessary to advance the field.
This essay explores whether the sexual murderer is a unique type of sex offender. Two competing hypotheses of sexual homicide are outlined: the unique type hypothesis and the situational hypothesis. The essay discusses the heterogeneity of sexual murderers and reviews the different typologies of sexual homicide and the most common types. Differences and similarities between sexual murderers and non-homicidal sex offenders are reviewed, focusing on offender characteristics, criminal career, situational factors, and modus operandi/crime characteristics. The essay examines the factors leading to a lethal outcome in sexual assaults by looking at the most important factors, and the combinations of factors, leading to the death of the victim. Misconceptions about the modus operandi of sexual murderers are discussed along with the main behaviors they use to commit their crime. Finally the essay explores the differences between serial and non-serial sexual murderers.
This essay outlines social scientific and theoretical inquiries into sexual violence. It argues that sexual violence must be studied and responded to with a significantly different approach than other forms of violence. Sexual violence is immanently linked to gender differentiation and sexual difference. Therefore this essay focuses attention on how feminist scholars have theorized consent, desire, and identity in the context of understanding sexual violence. It traces the development of research and theorizing about sexual violence over the past forty years since the emergence of the antirape movement. The essay reviews historical, social science, and sociobiological research in the context of feminist theories that have influenced understanding of sexual violence.
Lisa L. Sample
This article reviews the assumptions underlying sex offender legislation and discusses the incidence, prevalence, and causes of sex offending. The current sex offender legislation assumes that sex offenders are a homogeneous group who exhibit similar offending patterns irrespective of their type. It shows the importance of assessing the degree to which these assumptions comport to empirical information available about sex offenders and sex crimes. The trends in sex offending and victimization are summarized. Recidivism information is reviewed here in terms of general reoffending, sex offenders' general reoffending rates as compared to those for non-sexual offenders, and comparisons of general and sexual reoffending across several sex offender types. Several factors that contribute to criminal offenders' behavior, including those of a sociological, psychological, and biological nature are discussed. Finally, this article mentions that sex offending is a reprehensible behavior with long-lasting consequences for victims and needs to be managed, controlled, and prevented.
Carolyn A. Conley
This essay reviews historical studies on sexual assault. Ancient concepts of rape involved the theft of women’s chastity, which was the property of their male relatives. Early modern authorities equated rape with adultery and punished victims for sexual immorality. The modern focus on consent makes the relative status of victims and assailants crucial to the outcome. Social assumptions about gender roles and sexuality often meant that unless victims suffered severe physical injuries, the crime was perceived as seduction. Victims were often required to establish that they were innocent and helpless. Few “respectable” white men were convicted of sexual assault, and race could render nonwhite victims inconsequential or make nonwhite perpetrators much more likely to be convicted and executed. Rape has also been used as a weapon of revenge or ethnic genocide, and the power of rape as a metaphor for brutal conquest has undermined comprehension of the reality of the crime.
Angela R. Gover, Elizabeth A. Tomsich, and Tara N. Richards
Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs at high rates in US society and has numerous negative physical, psychological, and economic consequences for victims and survivors. Given the high rates and deleterious consequences of IPV, research has focused added attention on behaviors survivors engage in as a response to the violence. This article discusses help seeking behaviors among victims and survivors of IPV by reviewing the incidence of help-seeking behavior and formal and informal outlets of assistance. The article presents theoretical explanations of help-seeking behaviors and reviews factors associated with the decision to seek help, as well as positive and negative outcomes of help-seeking. Although most victims seek assistance, they are more likely to seek informal rather than formal avenues of support. Barriers to help-seeking behaviors among IPV victims make theoretical evaluations difficult and complicate the development of effective formal resources as a response to those seeking help for IPV.
Children and adolescents experience disproportionately high levels of violent victimization, much of which occurs at the hands of their parents. This essay reviews data on the incidence and impact of intrafamilial child homicide, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Although both mothers and fathers offend against children, fathers are more likely to be responsible for severe, injury-causing, and lethal forms of physical abuse of children and predominate as perpetrators of intrafamilial child sexual abuse, mostly against daughters. Mothers, in contrast, are responsible for the majority of infanticide. Contrasting perspectives of the criminal justice and child protection systems on these gender differences are highlighted. This essay also emphasizes the substantial international variation in rates of intrafamily violence against children and considers the importance of social and cultural factors to understanding and reducing children’s victimization.
Michael Smyth and Valerie Jenness
Violence aimed at individuals who identify, or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), or otherwise gender variant has been a part of the fabric of most societies both historically and in the present era. This essay reviews empirical data, mostly from the United States, on the contours of this type of violence in the modern era, and it discusses psychological, interactional, cultural, and structural perspectives on violence against LGBTQ people. The patterned nature of violence against sexual and gender minorities is an outgrowth of structures and processes intimately connected to a binary sex/gender system in which heterosexuality and heterosexism are defined as normative. The essay concludes by describing how, late in the twentieth century, violence against LGBTQ people garnered the attention of activists and interest groups in unprecedented ways, which in turn engendered significant legislative and other mitigatory responses at the local, state, and national levels.
A consistent overrepresentation of men in recorded violent crimes and thus a certain disposition of male aggressiveness has been evident from the late Middle Ages to today. However, we can also detect several major shifts in the history of interpersonal male violence from the eighteenth century onward. From a cultural historical perspective, violent actions by men or women cannot be interpreted as contingent, individual acts, but rather must be seen as practices embedded in sociocultural contexts and accompanied by informal norms. Because one grand theory cannot account convincingly for the history of violence and masculinity, an array of approaches is more likely to shed light on the issue. Interestingly, shifts in the history of violence have often corresponded with changes to prevailing notions of masculinity. This essay delineates the relevant historical shifts from the early modern “culture of dispute” to the different paths of interpersonal violence over the twentieth century.