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By on February 3, 2010

Risk Recognition and Intimate Partner Violence

I was reading the new study Risk Recognition and Intimate Partner Violence thinking about the concept of “risk recognition” – that is ability to detect danger.  And I have questions.

  • Are these beneficial skills as the authors suggest?
  • What are the implications of having “risk recognition” as the primary goal of a prevention program?
  • Does it unintentionally absolve potential perpetrators from responsibility for violence?
  • Does it unintentionally place the burden for prevention on the potential victim?
  • How do we responsibility integrate risk reduction strategies into a comprehensive prevention initiative?

In this study the authors state the following in their implications section:

“However, it is important to note that we are not suggesting that we can train victims to effectively predict such violent behavior, as there is no real way to predict unpredictable behavior (Langford, 1996); this would lead to a false sense of control. We are only suggesting that we may be able to teach victims to recognize abusive behavior—even “minor” forms such as name calling and grabbing—as soon as it occurs.”

As I have written before about feminist self defense, empowering women to take action should be part of a comprehensive prevention effort. What is the role of “risk recognition” in this?

What do you think?

Here is the full citation and abstract:

Risk Recognition and Intimate Partner Violence.

Witte TH, Kendra R. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2009; ePublished December 29, 2009

Click here for a link on the journal’s web site.

(Copyright © 2009, Sage Publications)

The objective of this study was to determine whether female victims of physical forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) displayed deficits in risk recognition, or the ability to detect danger, in physically violent dating encounters. A total of 182 women watched a video depicting a psychologically and physically aggressive encounter between heterosexual dating partners and made repeated judgments about the interaction. Results from this study provided evidence for the validation of this methodology and found that history of physical forms of IPV was associated with risk recognition ability, such that victims of IPV were less likely to recognize the danger involved in the video vignette compared to nonvictims. Results showed important implications for IPV prevention programs.

2 responses to “Risk Recognition and Intimate Partner Violence”

  1. When I used to do advocacy, I constantly heard people saying I just needed to teach the women with whom I worked to recognize warning signs, etc. What I found, however, was that women did recognize these. They were experts on risk recognition and were very creative in how to respond to and manage that risk. I think/hope we’ve become a movement that acknowledges the expertise of those who have experienced or are experiencing IPV. So whenever I hear assumptions about victims as unknowing it makes me uncomfortable. Do we have evidence to support this assumption in the first place?

    On another note, I think another benefit of feminist self-defense is the power it has to organize and bring women together.

  2. I believe this recognition of more subtle expressions of abusive behavior are important to teach, but not if the only people who are taught this are potential victims. This insight is important for all members of society including bystanders so that abusive behavior and attitudes can be dealt with early before it manifests itself in dating violence.

    This research may also show how being a victim of IPV can make what was shown in the video seem like nothing in comparison to that person’s actual experiences.

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