Domestic violence has traditionally been conceptualized as primarily one type of violence–a violence that involves power, control, and psychological manipulation in addition to physical acts of violence. Johnson (2008) presents four typologies of domestic violence: intimate terrorism, violent resistance, situational couple violence, and mutual violent control. Intimate terrorism falls in line with what most professionals and laypersons identify as domestic violence–the abuser is violent and coercively controlling. Intimate terrorism unlike most other violence happens over an extended period of time and in the context of a committed, ongoing relationship (Johnson, 2008, p. 37). If violent resistance is present, it is often in conjunction with intimate terrorism. The partner who is being abused by an intimate terrorist (violent & controlling) responds with violence but is not controlling like her partner. You may have seen this exhibited in movies like “The Burning Bed” or “Sleeping with the Enemy,” and this is also where the “battered woman defense” has become a viable option in a court of law. In situational couple violence, the violence is provoked by an emotionally escalated circumstance but does not involve a pattern of power and control. This is probably the most common type of violence and typically does not involve a motivation for control; however, this typology can still be life-threatening, especially if it becomes a chronic problem that continues to intensify over time. The last typology of violence is mutual violent control. This type is more rare and involves both partners engaging in violent and controlling behaviors. See the graphic below for more information about what power and control looks like in a domestic violence relationship.
If you’d like to read more about the effects of power and control and the typologies of violence, check out “A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violence Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence” by Michael P. Johnson (2008). Hopefully, knowing more about the different types of violence can help clinicians (and others) identify issues as soon as possible and create a safety plan to support clients as they are ready to move forward.