In the United States (U.S.) and Australian contexts, the fight to achieve legal and societal recognition of cisgender men’s violence against cisgender women operated according to an incident-based victim-offender binary. Those held accountable for the violence were seen as offenders, those who survived the violence were seen as victims. This binary persists across police, court, corrections, intervention, and child protection settings. However, work with cisgender heterosexual women with offenses of abuse and violence demonstrates that the binary does not capture their complex experiences. Instead, they have “offended” in the context of often surviving long-term harm in their families of origin and from their intimate partners. Because their experiences do not align with the binary, they are caught in ineffective and retraumatizing responses.
The authors use an intersectional theoretical framework to explore how heterosexual cisgender women’s use of force complicates the victim-offender binary. By understanding women who have used force as having both survived and caused harm, rather than “victims” or “offenders,” the authors call attention to the limitations of, and harm caused by, binary approaches. The authors also call for a reconceptualization beyond the binary—challenging established legal and intervention frameworks. To demonstrate the need for this reconceptualization, the authors report on U.S. and Australian legal cases, intervention approaches, and discuss socio-legal systems implications.
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Researchers: Larance, L. Y., Kertesz, M., Humphreys, C., Goodmark, L., & Douglas, H.
Citation: Larance, L. Y., Kertesz, M., Humphreys, C., Goodmark, L., & Douglas, H. (2021). Beyond the Victim-offender Binary: Legal and Anti-violence Intervention Considerations With Women Who Have Used Force in the U.S. and Australia. Affilia, 37(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/08861099211060549