skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 161221 Find in a Library
Title: Imagining Woman Battering: Social Knowledge, Social Therapy, and Patriarchal Benevolence (From Women at Risk: Domestic Violence and Women's Health, P 43-69, 1996, Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft -- See NCJ-161219)
Author(s): E Stark; A Flitcraft
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 27
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Type: Research (Theoretical)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Using Frances Cobbe's perspective on the dynamics of official responses ("patriarchal benevolence") to wife beating in the 1870's, this chapter considers whether the official responses to wife-beating in contemporary Britain and America may also mask the perpetuation of a patriarchal structure that assumes the continuation of male dominance and control.
Abstract: Cobbe traced the causes of wife-beating to the embedded cultural view that wives are the property of their husbands to use and abuse in any way they see fit. Although Cobbe campaigned for reforms that ranged from a 6-month prison term for assailants to state-guaranteed alimony while the batterer was in jail, she worried that the enforcement of such laws might prove to be a mixed blessing. She feared that court intervention would implicitly set a standard of toleration for "normal" wife- beating, thereby increasing the average level of women's misery that was to be officially permitted, particularly in those classes where intimidation rather than persistent brutality was the primary means of control. Through its actions, the court was defining wife beating solely in terms of severe assault, again rationalizing rather than challenging (nonviolent) male domination in the middle classes. To this extent, the law managed the problem of wife-beating by giving it official notice and definition, but it did not resolve it. This chapter shows how the responses of social knowledge, social therapy, and patriarchal benevolence to wife-beating in Great Britain and the United States have followed the pattern that Cobbe predicted and feared. Cultural conditioning for male dominance and female submission have been largely ignored in analyses and responses to the abuse of women in favor of a focus on the individual pathology of the abuser, and laws and official responses have focused on the severe cases of physical abuse. Meanwhile, the core of the problem, i.e., a patriarchal culture, goes largely unchallenged in scholarly analysis and policymaking.
Main Term(s): Female victims
Index Term(s): Abused women; Battered wives; Domestic violence causes; Spouse abuse causes
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.