Although most people find their intimate relationships to be positive and supportive, it’s also not uncommon for aggression to find its way into our homes and even our bedrooms. Much of the research on intimate partner violence, and the public policy based on it, starts from the assumption that the man is always the instigator of the aggression. According to this view, women may also engage in violent acts against their partners, but only in response to—and in self-defense of—the aggressive behaviors their male partners have perpetrated against them.
However, British psychologist Elizabeth Bates argues in a recent article published in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinities that men are not always the initial aggressors in intimate partner violence but can also be the victims of it. In fact, she maintains, there’s evidence from previous research that both men and women are victims of violence within the home. Additionally, some studies show a bidirectional relationship. That is to say, the man and woman fall into a pattern of repeated violence against each other in which either one could be the instigator on any given occasion. In other words, women’s intimate partner violence isn’t always in self-defense.