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Naming and defining ‘Domestic Violence’: lessons from research with violent men

Kelly, L.; Westmarland, N.

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L. Kelly


In this paper we draw on data from in-depth interviews with men who have used violence and abuse within intimate partner relationships to provide a new lens through which to view the conceptual debates on naming, defining and understanding ‘domestic violence’, as well as the policy and practice implications that flow from them. We argue that the reduction of domestic violence to discrete ‘incidents’ supports and maintains how men themselves talk about their use of violence, and that this in turn overlaps with contentions about the appropriate interventions and responses to domestic violence perpetrators. We revisit Hearn’s 1998 work The Violences of Men, connecting it to Stark’s later concept of coercive control, in order to develop and extend understandings of violence through analysis of the words of those who use it. We conclude by exploring the implications of these findings for recent legal reform in England and Wales and for policies on how we deal with perpetrators.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 11, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 1, 2016
Publication Date Feb 1, 2016
Deposit Date Nov 3, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2017
Journal Feminist Review
Print ISSN 0141-7789
Electronic ISSN 1466-4380
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 112
Issue 1
Pages 113-127
Keywords Domestic violence, Violent men, Definitions, Coercive control
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (456 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Feminist review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Kelly, L. & Westmarland, N. (2016). Naming and defining ‘Domestic Violence’ lessons from research with violent men. Feminist Review 112(1): 113-127 is available online at:

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