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OP-9.1.-Invisible Touch: Aggression by British Wives 1200-2000 A.D.

George, M.J.
Neuroscience, Faculty of Basic Medical Science, St Bartholomew's and Royal London Hospital Medical School, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, UK.

In contrast to intimate victimisation of female partners by males the reverse, aggression by females against their intimate males, is seemingly an 'Invisible Touch'. Evidenced by a wealth of gender neutral Conflict Tactics Scale studies, but little commented upon by academics and hardly ever researched in its own right.  This dichotomy in academia, as well as elsewhere, arises out of a 'Great Taboo' (George, 1994); which is the uncomfortable notion of the 'battered husband' and the transgression and inversion of gender roles and norms inherent.  Evidence for the existence of violence by wives against husbands can be traced back in European history to ancient Greece, but is manifest during the second Millenium from Russia in the East to Greece in the South and the United Kingdom in the West. Charivari rituals in early modern times punished all manner of slights against social convention (Thompson, 1972) . Evidence, particularly from England, suggests that these rituals were at their most elaborate when men were beaten and subjugated by their wives. The use in England of 'Skimmington', as a distinct form of Charivari, to punish the beaten husband or even his neighbours is documented by contemporary literature and violence by wives exists in Court records from, at least, the Sixteenth Century onwards. This evidence demonstrates that from the Eighteenth century concern in England for women victims grew, whilst these ancient social customs of public disapproval and humiliation of beaten men fell into disuse.  However, it is suggested that the use of the 'Skimmington' as a punishment of victimised men has not ceased. It exists as the invisible touch of a lamentable song within the social, political, legal and academic consideration of the field of intimate violence.

References: George, M.J. (1994) Riding the donkey backwards: Men as the unacceptable victims of marital violence. Journal of Men's Studies 3, 137-159. Thompson, E.P. (1972) Rough Music: Le Charivari Anglais  Annales ESC 27, 285-312  


Graham-Kevan, N.
Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, UK

This study investigated the proposition by Johnson (1995) that there may be distinct subgroups of violence within relationships. Johnson termed these patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence.  Patriarchal terrorism was thought to be characterised by male to female violence set within a framework of controlling behaviours.  Common couple violence was thought to be characterised by mutual violence by both partners when conflict occasionally gets out of hand. The sample comprised students (N=113), women from a domestic violence refuge (N=44), and male prisoners (N=108).  Each participant completed The Controlling Behaviours Scale (CBS) (Graham-Kevan, 1999), Conflict Tactics Scale, CTS, ( Straus, 1979) for themselves and their partner, and additional items regarding fear experienced by themselves during conflicts and injuries sustained by both themselves and their partner.  In order to investigate physically aggressive relationships only, relationships were classified as either involving physical aggression or not, based on the responses given to the CTS.  Only those classed as physically aggressive were used in subsequent analysis.  Reports (N=136) of own and partner use of physical aggression, controlling behaviours, injuries sustained and self-reported fear were entered into a Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA). The DFA produced two significant discriminant functions which together correctly classified 76% of cases (88% of shelter, 39% of students, and 93% of prisoners).  The first function accounted for 90% of the variance and was comprised of partners’ use of controlling behaviours, self reported fear, partners’ use of minor physical aggression, injuries sustained by self and partners’ use of severe physical aggression.  The second function accounted for 10% of the variance and comprised of respondents own use of minor aggression, injuries to their partner, own use of severe physical aggression, and their own use of controlling behaviours.  These results support belief that there are subgroups within relationship violence.  The fact that these subgroups appear to be reasonably distinct has important implications for intervention programs, official statistics and theoretical research. 


Maw, S.K. and George, M.J.
MSRG and Neuroscience, Faculty of Basic Medical Science, St Bartholomew's and Royal London Hospital Medical School, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, UK.

In 1996 results of a nationally representative survey of aggression between British heterosexual partners (N= 1865) was published (Carrado, George, Loxam, Lewis and Templar, 1996). Based upon use of an adapted Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979) containing five items of physical assault it was found that across all relationships 18% of men and 13% of women reported sustaining at least one of these acts, whilst 10% of men and 11% of women reported inflicting such an act on a partner. In current relationships 11% of men and 5% of women reported likewise and 5% of currently married or cohabiting men, as opposed to 1% of currently married or cohabiting women, reported sustaining more than one act of physical assault from their current partner. This survey was undertaken within a broader survey of consumer attitudes in which a considerable amount of demographic data and other details were available. This and the survey data itself has allowed a fuller statistical analysis, using Factor analysis, which has confirmed inferences drawn upon the previous descriptive review of data.  Analysis of both the symbolic/verbal and physical victimisation/ aggression results in relation to a number of factors such as sex, age, relationship status, geographical location, household income and the presence of children in a household has been undertaken. This analysis has found a number of significant factors which allow inferences upon sex differences and between respondents according to the nature of conflict tactics experienced or used. This full analysis allows comparison with data obtained in the survey of intimate assaults undertaken within the 1996 British Crime Survey undertaken by the British Government's Home Office.

References: Carrado M., George M.J., Loxam E., Jones L., Templar D. (1996) Aggression in British heterosexual relationships.  Aggressive Behavior 22, 401-415

Straus, M.A. (1979) Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The Conflict Tactics (CT) Scale.  Journal of Marriage and Family 41, 75-88  


Tangney,  J.P.
Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax AV, USA

To learn more about factors that foster constructive vs. destructive responses to anger, 216 romantically involved young adult couples were interviewed in-depth regarding recent episodes of anger. The couples described a broad range of anger-eliciting events, but one factor we were particularly interested in was whether the offense caused the victim partner to feel shame.  Thus, we compared events that caused the victim to feel shame and anger (shame) vs. events that caused only feelings of anger (no shame). There was a clear link between shame and maladaptive responses to anger. First, victims of the shame-related anger events were significantly more angry than non-shamed partners. Second, shamed victims were more likely to report malevolent and fractious intentions.  They were oriented toward getting back at their partner and letting off steam, rather than trying to fix the situation.  Third, shamed victims behaved differently. Shamed boyfriends were inclined toward a range of direct and indirect forms of aggression -- behaviors intended to cause harm to the perpetrating girlfriend – and they were also were prone to ruminative anger.  Shamed girlfriends showed a tendency toward displaced aggression and self-directed hostility.  Fourth, not surprisingly, shamed victims did not feel very good about the way they handled their anger. Fifth, these apparently maladaptive expressions of anger did not result in any positive behavior on the part of the shame-inducing perpetrators (especially according to the victims' accounts).  Perpetrator's responses to the aggressive retaliation of shamed victims centered on anger, resentment, defiance and denial -- rather than, for example, apologies and attempts to fix the situation which were much more common in non-shamed couples.  Last, couples rated the longterm consequences of episodes of anger and shame as more negative than anger without shame. Taken together, these data provide a powerful empirical example of the shame-rage spiral described by Lewis (1971) and Scheff (1987), with (1) victim shame leading to feelings of rage, (2) and destructive retaliation, (3) which then sets into motion partner anger and resentment, (4) as well as expressions blame and retaliation in kind, (5) which is then likely to further shame the victim, and so forth -- without any constructive resolution in sight.


McMurray,  A.
Faculty of Nursing and Health, Griffith University, PMB Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

This study investigated separation-related violence against women from the male perspective to identify modifiable elements of the personal, situational and socio-legal environments that lead to violence against female former partners. Structured questions were developed for telephone interviews with separated and/or divorced males in Western Australia.  Volunteers were recruited via a media campaign that posed the question: "Why do some men hit women: why don't all men hit women?"  146 interviews were analyzed using Pearson R and Spearman chi square for quantitative data, and thematic analysis of open-ended responses.  Sixty-one of the men reported having been violent, 14 at the time of separation only.  The violence was witnessed by children in 23 cases.  Factors influencing their violent behaviours were reported as finances, alcohol/drugs, fatigue/stress, and 'the system'.  No significant association was found between violence and having a source of support.  Nearly half the men believed their violence was justified, either unequivocally or sometimes.  Fairness in the legal system was the most frequent suggestion for redressing violence in society, followed by provision of counseling, support and education appropriate to the needs of males. Study findings emphasize the importance of understanding and accepting the tensions of families as they are embedded in social relations.  Prevention, intervention and care-giving strategies for separating families must be contextualized to the personal, social, legal and situational environments of both partners to separation and divorce.