Sisterhood Blog

A ‘Silent Agreement’ Between Batterers and Their Victims?

By Nathan Jeffay

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An Israeli academic has come up with a theory about domestic violence that is, at once, extremely disturbing and somewhat hopeful.

Eila Perkis of the University of Haifa’s School of Social Work claims in a new paper that violence between couples is usually the result of a calculated decision-making process.

Her theory is that neither partner sits down and plans when he or she will swear or lash out at the other, but there is a sort of “silent agreement” standing between the two on what limits of violent behavior are acceptable, where the red line is drawn, and where behavior beyond that could be dangerous. (She stresses that this in no way excuses violence.)

In short, while violent partners often describe their behavior as “loss of control,” this doesn’t tell the whole story; rather, she’s says, it is conduct of a pre-determined kind triggered by anger or conflict.

According to Perkis, backing up her theory facts, such as that violent partners, in other areas of their lives, are often law abiding citizens who are able to maintain self control, and that violent partners normally keep their violence within certain limits. These limits, she claims, are calculated according to the potential fallout — that is, most partners stop before actions that would spark police involvement or the collapse of the partnership.

So while, if Perkis’ theory is to be believed, it’s grim on the one hand that violence between partners is pre-decided, but encouraging in a sense that violent partners do give thought to red lines; it indicates that there is hope for “zero tolerance” campaigns do get partners to draw the line at any violent conduct.

Perhaps most significantly, Perkis also claims that her findings could help therapists trying halt violence between couples they are counseling.


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