Science/Medicine
1:31 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Safe at Home (Part 3): Women who use force

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At Michigan Radio we have been looking at how domestic violence affects our community, and what programs there are for survivors and abusers that keep people safe at home.

Often, discussions about domestic abuse focus on men who use violence. The National Institute of justice reports that 90 percent of "systematic, persistent, and injurious" violence against an intimate partner is committed by men. But what about female aggressors?

Lisa Larance is the founder and coordinator of the RENEW program, which offers advocacy, support, and intervention to women who have used force in their relationships.

Larance explains that it is important to make the distinction between the ways men and women use violence in their relationships. Even the language is different. Men "batter", women "use force."

“The term ‘batterer’ is actually a gender specific term that refers to coercively controlling tactics...That power and control dynamic that really defines domestic violence is often not a power and control dynamic that women are able to access."

Some might argue that violence is violence—regardless of who throws the blow—and that changing the language around it minimizes the experience of male victims. However, Larance explains that women use physical force differently, often to take short-term control of a chaotic situation with their partner, rather than to maintain long-term power and control.

Research shows that women are more likely to take responsibility when a violent incident is first reported and less likely to identify as survivors of domestic violence if they have a history of abusive relationships. “They do so because they see themselves as very strong and it’s important for them to believe in that sense of agency,” Larance says.

The RENEW program provides support and advocacy for these women.

Similar resources are also offered to male batterers. “Anyone who’s using violence in their relationship is potentially causing harm to themselves and other people and calling out in desperate need for help, male or female," Larance says. Support, advocacy and trust matter for long term success.

Larance emphasizes the importance of contextualizing female aggression. “In order to have effective, sustainable intervention we need to understand the distinctions in motivation, intent and impact of the individual using the violence...that’s out of respect for the individual using the violence and the individual who is harmed by the violence, male or female.”

-Meg Cramer

If you are or if someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, please call:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Safe House Center 24-hour help line, Washtenaw County: 734-995-5444
  • S.A.F.E. PLACE 24-hour crisis line, Battle Creek: 269-965-SAFE (7233)
  • Alternatives to Domestic Aggression, Washtenaw County: 734-971-9781 Ext. 430