By David Lee on March 16, 2010 · tagged as , ,

Losing the "gender" in gender-based violence

Gender based violence is a term used throughout the world. That is, used everywhere except the United States.  Here we use a wide range of terms: domestic violence, intimate partner violence and dating violence (usually used to describe young people’s relationships).

In a commentary in the recent issue of Violence Against Women, Elizabeth Reed and colleagues express concern about “losing the ‘gender’ in gender-based violence.” They go further to describe this problem as “the missteps of research on dating and intimate partner violence” which “ignores the world beyond our databases.”

Reed and her colleagues review the literature and suggest that

it is clear why the WHO and other major health authorities describe IPV as gender based, with the vast burden in regards to health, development, and economic security borne by women and girls.

Yet, they found in a review of the literature on dating violence, an overwhelmingly large percentage of the research is framed as gender-neutral where violence is often seen as reciprocal. I have found this pattern to be true as I review the recent research studies.  When I wrote a blog about this research I often highlight what the instrument was used, as the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) which measures primarily a count of acts and does not account for the context. Scales like this typically lead to findings described as gender neutral. (Click here for a critique of this scale.)

I especially like how Reed and her colleagues describe the problem with this approach.

Use of this “reciprocal violence” framework for understanding adolescent and adult IPV ignores the world beyond our databases. We should not frame and interpret research in the absence of well-accepted historical and political realities. That is not to say that both males and females cannot or do not enact unhealthy relationship behaviors, including aggression or that such unhealthy relationship behaviors do not negatively impact both males and females. Such behaviors, however, likely have differing etiologies and are displayed differently based on the gender of the actors.

This commentary provides some useful concepts to consider when reviewing research on dating violence.

The full citation is below:

Losing the “gender” in gender-based violence: the missteps of research on dating and intimate partner violence.

Reed E, Raj A, Miller E, Silverman JG. Violence Against Women 2010; 16(3): 348-54.

Click here for a link to the abstract on the journal web site.

(Copyright © 2010, Sage Publications)

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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