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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Publication details for Prof Catherine Donovan

Donovan, Catherine & Barnes, Rebecca (2019). Re-tangling the concept of coercive control: A view from the margins and a response to Walby and Towers (2018). Criminology & Criminal Justice

Author(s) from Durham


This article responds to Walby and Towers’ article, in which they propose a quantitative methodology that evidences gender asymmetry in ‘domestic violence crime’. Through examining core issues including harm, severity and repetition of domestic violence crime victimisation, they argue that Stark’s concept of ‘coercive control’ is obsolete and refute Johnson’s typology of intimate partner violence. However, their conclusions are based on problematic assumptions about, for example, the relative impacts of physical and non-physical violence; the usefulness of incident- rather than relationship-based understandings of domestic violence and abuse and a focus on victim/survivors’ ‘resilience’ and ‘vulnerability’ over perpetrators’ motives. Moreover, their cisnormative operationalisation of sex and gender and neglect of sexuality overlooks important evidence about lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people’s victimisation. This reinforces a limited ‘public story’ of domestic violence and abuse and arguably creates weaknesses in feminist analyses of domestic violence that could further fuel anti-feminist, gender-neutral approaches.