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Female perpetrators of intimate partner violence: Stakeholder engagement research

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Published: July 2022

The Home Office Domestic Abuse Perpetrators Research Fund is focused on strengthening the evidence base for ‘what works’ in addressing perpetrator behaviour to support effective commissioning and delivery of perpetrator services and interventions.

As part of this initiative, in 2021, the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) was awarded funding to carry out a piece of research with the aim of improving understanding of female perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV).

About the study

The purpose of the research was to:

  • Consolidate knowledge of the drivers, contexts, methods, and impacts of female perpetrated IPV.
  • Understand the narrative that informs the interactions and approach of professionals working with female IPV perpetrators.
  • Develop recommendations for messaging that can be applied to developing education and awareness campaigns around female perpetrated IPV for professionals working in the IPV field.
  • Develop recommendations for messaging that can be applied to public awareness and deterrence campaigns around female perpetrated IPV.

Findings

  • Findings from our review of the literature and stakeholder interviews point to a number of similarities in the motivations of male and female IPV perpetrators. This includes an underlying desire for power and control. Stakeholders also suggested that the situational, psychological, and developmental factors that may contribute to the instigation of IPV are also similar across male and female perpetrators. This included alcohol use, relationship conflict, and jealousy, as well as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
  • Stakeholders suggested that female IPV perpetrators tend to engage in more coercive and controlling behaviour than they do physical abuse. According to stakeholders, the coercive and controlling behaviour used by women is largely similar to that used by men. However, the use of legal and/or administrative abuse was a type of coercive and controlling behaviour that stakeholders identified as being more prevalent among female IPV perpetrators.
  • Although stakeholders identified physical impacts of female perpetrated IPV, discussions largely focused on the psychological and emotional impacts on male victims/survivors. Related to this, stakeholders also provided accounts of male victims/survivors feeling unable to speak to friends or family, or to seek professional support regarding their experiences of IPV, which in turn was described as increasing their psychological vulnerability.
  • Stakeholders identified a need to raise professional and public awareness about female perpetrated IPV. It was suggested that improving professional awareness could be achieved through a gender inclusive approach to training. Similarly, challenging societal norms and stereotypes around IPV and gender may raise public awareness of the issue.
  • Recommendations from stakeholders included awareness campaign content that reflects the range of relationships and age-groups that IPV occurs within, as well as messaging that encourages violence-free lives regardless of gender.

Methodology

The study involved two complementary stages:

Stage 1: A brief literature review of relevant evidence on female IPV perpetrators, approaches to behavioural intervention, and social attitudes towards female perpetrated IPV. The aim of the review was to provide context to Stage 2 of the research, and to ground findings and recommendations in the wider evidence base.

Stage 2: Qualitative research (in-depth interviews) with 19 expert stakeholders (e.g. academics, practitioners, and third sector workers) who had knowledge and/or experience of working with female IPV perpetrators and/or victims/survivors of female perpetrated IPV.

 

We would like to thank Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan who served as the academic advisor for this project.

Download report (pdf)