Lloyd Sealy Library                                                                                                                    John Jay College of Criminal Justice


by Natalie J. Sokoloff and Ida Dupont

Defining the Problem

   In an attempt to make relevant the lives of women from many different backgrounds who are both victims and survivors of domestic violence, no single model is adequate to understand the diversity of women's experiences and needs. While most of the pioneering work on domestic violence began by studying and providing services for women from primarily white (European), heterosexual, middle class origins, (2) we know those models all too often are inadequate to explain or provide the needed support for battered women who are members of groups marginalized as a result of their race, ethnicity, class, and/or sexual orientation. This Bibliography is one of many recent attempts to make available materials on multicultural perspectives on domestic violence in the United States.(3)

   As a first look at the available literature, this Bibliography focuses primarily on battered women of color in the home within the United States. While “white” women are “raced” as are women of color, domestic violence in white communities is referenced here primarily in studies comparing racial/ethnic minority groups to groups of white women. This is based on the assumption that whites have traditionally been considered the norm in domestic violence studies. However, it is important to remember the great degree of diversity among white women, as well as within each specific racial/cultural/ethnic and gender orientation group.

    It is our strong belief that one must seriously look at a race/ethnic/class/gender/sexual orientation framework fostered by women of color and their allies to understand both similarities and differences that exist among battered women from different backgrounds.

   The focus in this Bibliography on domestic violence is on battered women. The reality is that many people are victimized within families-—including people with disabilities, elders, small children, teenagers, and even sometimes men (4). However, the choice to focus on battered women was made for several reasons.

   The overwhelming majority of domestic violence cases involve men who batter women. Women are over ten times more likely to experience violence by an intimate partner and make up over 90 percent of incidents recorded by the National Crime Victims Survey(5). According to the National Violence Against Women Survey of 1996, women experience significantly more partner violence than men do: 22 percent of surveyed women, compared with 7 percent of surveyed men, said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetime (6). According to Bachman and Saltzman’s (1995) report of domestic violence estimates from the redesigned survey, this figure rises to 29 percent (7). Furthermore, women were six times more likely than men to be injured during an assault.(8) According to the F.B.I., woman battering results in the deaths of close to 1,500 women each year in the United States. (9)

   We use the terms domestic violence, woman battering, and family violence interchangeably here, although the focus of this investigation remains primarily women who are battered/abused/ violated by their intimate partners. This includes lesbian battering, a problem that has only recently been acknowledged within the Battered Women's Movement and in the literature on battering. Moreover, some of the literature has moved away from seeing battered women as victims to focusing on their strengths as survivors--or at least acknowledging both experiences. Survivor Theory argues it is important to begin by reinterpreting behavior often treated as symptoms (e.g., her “pathological” choice to remain with the batterer) to identifying “the personal resources to deal with abuse and trauma, rather than dwell on what is painful and hopeless and inadvertently reinforce a preoccupation with negative outcomes...[Only then do you have] an affirmative basis to move on to the painful and problematic effects of trauma” (10). These authors make it clear the "strengths approach is not analytic or emotive therapy," but a more general approach that needs be taken with regard to battered women.

    Although knowledge about domestic violence at the international level is very important and while there is an extensive literature emerging in this area, we have chosen to focus particularly on the experiences of women from different backgrounds in the United States.(11) Nonetheless, we are well aware of the importance of what happens to battered women in the U.S. and their families who are immigrants from other countries, or who are descendants of immigrants. Therefore, a special section on immigrant women who are battered is included in the Bibliography as well.

   As with "grounded theory" more generally, categories are derived from available resources in the literature and through networking with survivors, scholars, activists, advocates, researchers, and service providers. Please remember this is a first attempt, not a finished product. Any suggestions on organization and references would be greatly appreciated. Many areas are in need of elaboration and development; new areas are welcomed. (12)

   Please note that articles that fit one or more categories have been cross-referenced for the user’s convenience.

Core Issues Addressed in the Literature on Multicultural Perspectives on Domestic Violence

The Battered Women's Movement: Multicultural Perspectives on the Battered Women's Movement

    Several social movements have made it their goal to criminalize violence against women and to raise consciousness about the injustices of such abuse. In the mid to late 1800's (known as the “first wave” of the Women’s Movement),(13) women who were part of the Suffrage and Temperance Movements also campaigned to eliminate violence against women. This social movement largely attributed violence against women to brutal, alcoholic husbands. These activists fought for legislation to grant women a divorce on the grounds of their husbands' drunkenness. (14)

   The most recent Battered Women's Movement grew out of and was sustained largely by the Women's and Civil Rights Movements of the 1960's and 1970's. The Anti-rape Movement had a major impact on the development of the Battered Women's Movement by laying the foundations of feminist theory on domestic violence. (15) The modern Battered Women's Movement has been responsible for helping to identify battered women as crime victims as well as survivors; establishing a wide range of victim services; pressing for legislation criminalizing domestic violence; and promoting a theoretical understanding of domestic violence from a feminist perspective.

    The “traditional” feminist perspective of domestic violence (part of the “second wave” of the Women’s Movement) is a sociopolitical analysis of women's subordinate status as played out within socially structured gendered relationships. The feminist model is in opposition to both the family violence model and psychological explanations of domestic violence. The family violence model argues that there are several contributing factors to family violence, and women's subordinate position is only one of them (16) , whereas psychological theories suggest that domestic violence stems from the psychopathology of one or both parties. (17) The feminist explanation represented a radical departure from both by taking a sociological perspective with gender inequality as its central organizing principle: male dominance and control over women in the family sanctioned by law, religion, educational and occupational institutions, etc.

   However, some scholars, survivors, advocates and activists, particularly women of color and lesbians, are challenging the traditional, feminist view that gender inequality is the primary factor determining domestic violence. (This comprises the most recent “third wave”, or “third world view” of the contemporary Women’s Movement.) The exclusion of women of color in feminist leadership and scholarship has been identified as contributing factors to the shortage of race/ethnic minority perspectives in theory building on domestic violence. (18) Similarly, lesbian theorists question the primacy of gender in domestic violence theories.(19) And despite the longstanding tendency to minimize the significance of socio-economic class as a contributing factor to domestic violence, there is a growing body of work suggesting the importance of social class for understanding violence against women in the family.

   The feminist concept--that domestic violence affects all women equally--is now seriously being questioned. Kanuha argues that this generalization about women's experiences "trivializes both the dimensions that underlie the experiences of these particular abuse victims [from diverse origins, experiences, and locations in society] and, more importantly, the ways we analyze the prevalence and impact of the violence against them". (20)

What Are Multicultural Perspectives on Domestic Violence?

    Gender is constructed, according to Patricia Hill Collins, “by a range of interlocking inequalities ...a matrix of domination...where people experience race, class, gender, and sexuality differently depending upon their social location in the structures of race, class, gender, and sexuality.” (21) These systems are not reducible to individual attributes but look to the interrelationships between structural sources of privilege and subordination.

   According to multicultural explanations of woman battering, it is important to understand both the struggles that are unique to women from different racial, ethnic, religious, immigrant, socio-economic class, and sexual orientation backgrounds as we simultaneously understand the ways in which power and control operate within all groups to suppress particular women from diverse backgrounds. (22)

   Are Multicultural Perspectives on Domestic Violence Antithetical to Feminist Perspectives?

   Some feminists, particularly those adopting a human rights perspective, fear that placing domestic violence in a cultural context or characterizing it as a product of culture, custom, and tradition, inadvertently lessens outrage over violence against women. Indeed cultural explanations can and have been used to justify violence against women and have arguably resulted in a certain degree of moral relativism. For example, there are accounts of batterers who have used "cultural defenses" to justify brutal acts against their female partners.(23)

   While some batterers have undoubtedly benefited from such defenses, scholarly attention to the experiences and needs of battered women from different communities does not justify violence against women. Women of diverse backgrounds argue that mainstream legal and social systems have not been adequate to meet the needs of all battered women. "Strategies based on the experiences of women who do not share the same class and race backgrounds will be of limited utility for those whose lives are shaped by a different set of obstacles(Crenshaw, 1994, p. 96)." (24) Scholars who take multicultural perspectives to domestic violence provide theoretical foundations that support culturally competent services for both victims and perpetrators.

   And while some fear that a multicultural perspective will result in delineating difference between women to such an extent that there is no group solidarity between women, others suggest that "the social power in delineating difference need not be the power of domination; it can instead be the source of political empowerment and social reconstruction." (25) Crenshaw further suggests that there is a need to reach some middle ground between "assertions of multiple identity and the ongoing necessity of group politics." (26) And Collins ends by arguing there is a need to develop “...a complex view of violence grounded in intersectionality as well as challenging such violence through tranversal politics [...which requires being centered or rooted in one’s own groups’ lived experience while being able to shift to understanding the differential positions of partners in the anti-violence movement] that may create ties that bind in new and, hopefully, more emancipatory ways.”(27) It is in the spirit of balancing these needs and forging new directions from them that this Bibliography is produced.

Useful References, Not Necessarily Multicultural

   Although the major focus of this Bibliography is on multicultural perspectives on domestic violence, we present immediately below two areas not specifically multicultural (and not included in the Bibliography below) but useful background information to such a perspective: (1) General (or Second Wave) Feminist Theories of Domestic Violence and (2) Prevalence/ Incidence Studies on Domestic Violence (“General" and Multicultural).

(1)    References on General (or Second Wave) Domestic Violence Theory

   Anderson, Kristen L. (1997). Gender, Status, and Domestic Violence: An Integration of Feminist and Family Violence Approaches. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 655-669.

   Browne, Angela (1987). When Battered Women Kill. New York: Free Press.

   Campbell, Jacqueline, Harris, Mary, and Lee, Roberta. (1995). Violence Research: An Overview. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 9(2), 105-125.

   Dobash, R. P., and Dobash, R. E. (1979). Violence Against Wives: A Case against the Patriarchy. New York: Free Press.

   Dobash, Russell, Dobash, R. Emerson, Wilson, Margo, and Daly, Martin. (1992). The Myth of Sexual Symmetry in Marital Violence. Social Problems 39 (1/February), 71-91.

   Fagan, Jeffrey and Browne, Angela (1994). Violence Between Spouses and Intimates: Physical Aggression Between Women and Men in Intimate Relationships. In Albert J. Reiss and Jeffrey Roth (Eds.), Understanding & Preventing Violence, Vol. 3: Social Influences (pp. 115-292). Washington, D.C.: National Academy.

   Gondolf, Edward with Browne, Angela (1998). Recognizing the Strengths of Battered Women. In Edward Gondolf, Assessing Woman Battering in Mental Health Services (pp. 95-112). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

   Gondolf, Edward and Fisher, Ellen Rubenstein (1988). Battered Women as Survivors: An Alternative to Treating Learned Helplessness. Lexington, MA: Lexington.

   Heise, Lori (1998). Violence Against Women: An Integrated, Ecological Framework. Violence Against Women. 4(3), 262-290.

   Kurz, Demie (1998). Old Problems and New Directions in the Study of Violence Against Women. In Raquel Kennedy Bergen (Ed.), Issues in Intimate Violence (pp. 197-208). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

   Mahoney, Martha R. (1994). Victimization or Oppression? Women’s Lives, Violence and Agency. In M. A. Fineman and R. Mykitiuk (Eds.). The Public Nature of Private Violence: The Discovery of Domestic Abuse (pp. 59-92). NY: Routledge.     Radford, Jill, and Stanko, Elizabeth (1996). Violence Against Women and Children: The Contradictions of Crime Control Under Patriarchy. In Marianne Hester, Liz Kelly, and Jill Radford (Eds.). Women, Violence and Male Power (pp. 65-80). Phila: Open University.

   Schneider, Elizabeth M. (1992). Particularity and Generality: Challenges of Feminist Theory and Practice in Work on Woman-Abuse. New York University Law Review, 67, 520-568.

   Websdale, Neil (1999). Understanding Domestic Homicide. Boston: Northeastrn University.

   Websdale, Neil, and Chesney-Lind, Meda (1998). Doing Violence to Women: Research Synthesis on the Victimization of Women. In Lee Bowker (Ed.), Masculinities and Violence (pp. 55-81). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

   Widom, Cathy Spatz (1989). Does Violence Beget Violence? A Critical Examination of the Literature. Psychological Bulletin, 106(1), 3-28.

   Yllo, Kristi (1993). Through a Feminist Lens: Gender, Power, and Violence. In R. J. Gelles and D. R. Loeske (Eds.). Current Controversies on Family Violence (pp. 47-62). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

(2) References on the Prevalence/Incidence of Domestic Violence

   Bachman, Ronet and Saltzman, Linda. (1995). National Crime Victimization Survey: Violence against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. NCJ-154348.

   Browne, A., Miller, B., and Maguin, E. (1997). Prevalence and Severity of Lifetime Physical and Sexual Victimization among Incarcerated Women. Unpublished manuscript. Boston.

   Browne, Angela (1993). Violence Against Women by Male Partners: Prevalence, Outcomes, and Policy Implications. American Psychologist, 48(10), 1077-1087.

   Browne, Angela and Bassuk, Shari S. (1997). Intimate Violence in the Lives of Homeless and Poor Housed Women: Prevalence and Patterns in an Ethnically Diverse Sample. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 67(2), 261-278.

   Craven, Diane. 1996. Female Victims of Violent Crime. Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings. NCJ-162602.

   Craven, Diane. 1997. Sex Differences in Violent Victimization, 1994. Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings. NCJ-164508.

   Gondolf, E.W., Fisher, E., and McFerron, J.R. (1988). Racial Differences Among Shelter Residents: A Comparison of Anglo, Black, and Hispanic Battered Women. Journal of Family Violence, 3(1), 39-51.

   Greenfeld, Lawrence, et al. (1998). Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends. NCJ-167237.

    Kaufman Kantor, G., Jasinski, J., and Aldarondo, E. (1994). Sociocultural Status and Incidence of Marital Violence in Hispanic Families. Violence and Victims, 9(3), 207-222.

   Neff, James Allan, Holamon, Bruce and Schulter, Tracy Davis (1995). Spousal Violence among Anglos, Blacks, and Mexican Americans: The Role of Demographic Variables, Psychosocial Predictors, and Alcohol Consumption. Journal of Family Violence, 10(1), 1-21.

   Straus, Murray and Gelles, Richard. (1986). Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 48 (August), 465-479.

   Straus, M. And Smith, C. (1990). Violence in Hispanic Families in the United States: Incidence Rates and Structural Interpretations. In M.A. Straus and R. J. Gelles (Eds.). Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families (pp. 341-368). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

   Tjaden, Patricia and Thoennes, Nancy (1998). Prevalence Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women. National Institute of Justice (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij) and the Centers for Disease Control; National Criminal Justice Reference Service (800)851-3420 (http://www.ncjrs.org).

   Wilt, Susan, Illman, Susan, and Brodyfield, Maia (1997). Female Homicide Victims in New York City 1990-1994. New York: New York City Department of Health, Injury Prevention Program.


(1) Introduction was written by Natalie J. Sokoloff and Ida Dupont in 1999 and has not been updated since then. The list of references in the Bibliography is continually updated by Natalie J. Sokoloff.

(2) An exception is Richie, Beth (1985). Battered Black Women: A Challenge for the Black Community. Black Scholar, 6 (2), pp.40-44.

(3) Two additional categories included in this Bibliography are: (1) Religion and (2) Social and Personal Change. Religion may be equally as important as the other structural/cultural variables of race, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation for understanding domestic violence. However, religious diversity is so great and so understudied in relation to domestic violence that there is very little reference to it in the literature. Thus, it is a very small category in this Bibliography, but one that we hope others will expand. In addition, we felt the need to emphasize both culturally competent services for battered women from diverse backgrounds as well as broader social change to eradicate domestic violence in the many different communities in our society.

(4) For more of a discussion on male victimization by women see: Currie, Dawn (1998). Violent Men or Violent Women? Whose Definition Counts? In Raquel Kennedy Bergen (Ed.), Issues in Intimate Violence (pp. 97-111). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Hien, Denise & Hien, Nina M. (1998). Women, Violence with Intimates, and Substance Abuse; Relevant Theory, Empirical Findings, and Recommendations for Future Research. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 24 (3), 419-. Kelly, Liz (1996). When Does the Speaking Profit Us?: Reflections on the Challenges of Developing Feminist Perspectives on Abuse and Violence by Women. In Marianne Hester, Liz Kelly and Jill Radford (Eds.), Women, Violence and Male Power: Feminist Activism, Research and Practice (pp. 34-49). London: Open University. Saunders, Daniel G. (1986). Women-Battered Women Use Violence: Husband-Abuse or Self-Defense? Victims and Violence, 1 (1), 47-59. Toffel, Hope (1996). Crazy Women, Unharmed Men, and Evil Children: Confronting the Myths About Battered People Who Kill Their Abusers, and the Argument for Extending Battering Syndrome Self-Defense to All Victims of Domestic Violence, Southern California Law Review, 70, 337-.

(5) Browne, Angela (1987). When Battered Women Kill. New York: Free Press; and Craven, Diane (1997). Sex Differences in Violent Victimization, 1994. Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings. NCJ-164508.

(6) Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy (November, 1998). Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(7) Bachman, Ronet and Saltzman, Linda. (1995). National Crime Victimization Survey: Violence against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. NCJ-154348.

(8) Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy (November, 1998). Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(9) Browne, Angela, and Williams, Kirk (1993). Gender, Intimacy, and Lethal Violence: Trends from 1976 through 1987. Gender & Society, 7 (1/March), 78-98.

(10) Gondolf, Edward with Browne, Angela (1998). Recognizing the Strengths of Battered Women. In Edward Gondolf, Assessing Woman Battering in Mental Health Services (pp. 95-112). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

(11) For example, see: Mills, Linda (1996). Empowering Battered Women Trans- nationally: The Case for Postmodern Interventions. Social Work, 41(3),261,268.
    Yoshihama, Mieko, and Sorenson, Susan (1994). Physical, Sexual, and Emotional Abuse by Male Intimates: Experiences of Women in Japan. Violence and Victims, 9(1), 63-77.
    Gondolf, Edward, and Shestakov, Dmitri (1997). Spousal Homicide in Russia: Gender Inequality in a Multifactor Model. Violence Against Women, 3(5), 533-546.
    Avni, Noga (1991). Economic Exchange between Battered Wives and Their Husbands in Israel. International Review of Victimology, 2, 127-135.

(12) Please send references and any other materials to Natalie Sokoloff at the address on cover page of this bibliography. Thank you.

(13) Thanks to Amie McDonald for reminding us of the importance of indicating our history covers three different “waves” of feminist theory and action.

(14) Pleck, Elizabeth (1987). Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy Against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press.

(15) Schechter, Susan (1982). Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women's Movement. Boston: South End.

(16) Kurz, Demie (1989). Social Science Perspectives on Wife Abuse. Gender and Society, 3(4), 489-505.

(17) Karmen, Andrew (1995). Women Victims of Crime. In Barbara Raffel Price and Natalie J. Sokoloff (Eds.). The Criminal Justice System and Women: Offenders, Victims and Workers, 2nd Ed. (pp.181-196). New York: McGraw-Hill.

(18) Kanuha, Valli (1996). Domestic Violence, Racism, and the Battered Women's Movement in the United States. In J.L. Edleson and Z.C. Eisikovits (Eds.), Future Interventions With Battered Women and Their Families (pp.34-50). London: Sage.

(19) Eaton, Mary (1994). Abuse by Any Other Name: Feminism, Difference, and Intralesbian Violence. In M.A. Fineman and R. Mykitiuk (Eds.), The Public Nature of Private Violence: The Discovery of Domestic Abuse (pp. 195-223). New York: Routledge.

(20) Kanuha, Ibid, p. 41.

(21) Baca Zinn, Maxine and Thornton Dill, Bonnie. Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism.” Feminist Studies 22 (2/Summer), 321-331.

(22) For an important theoretical discussion of these issues, see Patricia Hill Collins (1998). The Tie that Binds: Race, Gender and US Violence. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21 (5), 917-938.

(23) For a more in depth discussion of this concern, see:
   Gallin, Alice J. (1994). The Cultural Defense: Undermining the Policies Against Domestic Violence. Boston College Law Review 35, 723-.
   Maguigan, Holly (1995). Cultural Evidence and Male Violence: Are Feminist and Multiculturalist Reformers on a Collision Course in Criminal Courts? New York University Law Review 70, 36-.
   In addition, for an example of how this type of approach with battered women from diverse communities is used, see: Carolyn West (1998). Lifting the “Political Gag Order”: Breaking the Silence around Partner Violence in Ethnic Minority Families. In Jana Jasinski and Linda Williams, eds. Partner Violence: A Comprehensive Review of 20 Years of Research (pp. 184-209). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

(24) Crenshaw, Kimberle (1994). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. In M.A. Fineman and R. Mykitiuk (Eds.), The Public Nature of Private Violence: the Discovery of Domestic Abuse, (pp. 93-118). New York: Routledge.

(25) Crenshaw, Ibid, p. 93.

(26) Crenshaw, Ibid, p. 111.

(27) Collins, Op cit., p. 936.

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