The Three Phases of Intimate Terrorism

Mwaka Mwandwe:

Mwaka Mwandwe

Intimate Partner Violence is recognized as problem worldwide. This is because it occurs in all cultures, ethnic groups, religions, races and social statuses. It includes all physical, sexual and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors by an intimate partner.

Violence between intimate partners in the past was seen as part of a unitary experience, especially in marriage. The origin or identification of Intimate Partner Violence as a menace in society can be traced back to investigations by family sociologists. They studied violence between intimate partners in the 1970’s and 1980’s, typically from nationally representative samples, and this information mainly came from sources such as shelters, hospitals, and police data in terms of incidence, perpetrators, severity, and context.

It was noted that in as much as IPV occurs in the context of an adult intimate relationship, most victims were female. Kelly and Johnson (2008) called victims battered women and perpetrators, the batterers. However, it is wrong for one to assume males are not victims of IPV. However, the occurrence is higher among women than men.

Feminists and women’s advocates believed that IPV was a product of the need for dominance over women that males desire, (Baumeister and Bushman, 2008). However, around the 1990s it became apparent that there was more than one type of intimate partner violence, and not all of them are based on issues rooted in need for power and control.

There are four types of Intimate Partner Violence according to Kelly and Johnson (2008 :477). These are:

  1. Coercive Controlling Violence,
  2. Violent Resistance,
  3. Situational Couple Violence, and
  4. Separation-Instigated Violence.”

Coercive Controlling Violence

The first type, Cohesive Control Violence constitutes, “a pattern of emotionally abusive intimidation, coercion, and control coupled with physical violence against partners,” Most women’s advocates use the term domestic violence, in other research works it’s called Patriarchal violence. However, other researchers claimed that domestic violence isn’t always committed by men, hence later termed it Intimate Terrorism.

Violent Resistance

 Violent Resistance is understood as the reaction to Intimate Terrorism. It is not necessarily self defense, but rather a means of protecting oneself from the physical violence, either immediately or in the long run.

Further, it can also exhibit itself as an outburst of anger even when the resistor feels it may cause more violence. Violent resistance is sometimes primarily aimed as a weapon of vengeance. It should be noted that the term Female Resistance is sometimes used to describe this type of IPV. Most objective researchers and clinicians use the term Violent Resistance as it encompasses both males and females.

 Situational Couple Violence

 The third type of IPV, Situational Couple Violence, previously termed as Common Couples Violence, takes the form of arising in the classes of specific conflicts that then escalates into actual violence. In other words, precise conflicts initiate disputes, these disputes give birth to violence and because this violence is originated from specific triggersit bears the term, situational.

The term common was dropped because readers felt it implied an accepted or expected form of violence that most couples experience.

Separation-Instigated Violence

Separation Instigated Violence is referred to when talking about violence that is exhibited during a separation. It is by no means based on power and control like the previous ones, the premise of this violence is a product of frustration and anger that comes with the separation, causing the violence.

It is worth noting however, that some scholars have identified a fifth type of IPV exists called Mutual Violent Control. In this one, both parties fight for equal dominance and control of the relationship or partner. However, it lucks a lot of empirical evidence and is often an artifact of imprecise measurement.

The types of violence may take a process called, the cycle of violence, this encompasses three stages.

The first is the honeymoon stage. An initial stage in which the abuser has a sense of remorse, expresses apologies and even showers victim with gifts.

The second is called tension building phase, typical characteristics include fear, poor communication and tension, leading to outbursts. Victims often try to calm the abuser down.

The final stage, Acting Out phase, are actual violent incidences or outbursts.

In Zambia this social threat is experienced by many individuals, especially females. Even with the establishment of victims Support Unit, the rampant trends of Intimate Partner Violence, especially against women and girls in Zambia, continue to rise. Victims of IPV are especially prone to increasing psychological problems.

Thus, the incidence, prevalence, as well as analyze the psychological explanations, concerns and interventions of Intimate Partner Violence should be investigated. As I will do in this three article series on intimate terrorism.

The most important thing to do as a victim of IPV is to first recognize the patterns of the violence, collect evidence and report it to the police as soon as possible. Do not stay in a bad situation as it could cost your life, as it has for many. Always seek help. Stay safe.

Mwaka C. Mwandwe is Volunteer Manager at SAFIGI Outreach Foundation, Safety First for Girls. She is an activist for women’s rights, gender equality, and socio-economic development. Mwaka graduated from the University of Zambia, and has since been actively working in various NGOs at a grassroots level in Zambia, to advance the interests of marginalized girls.
To learn more about SAFIGI visit

This is the first installment of the series of articles by Ms Mwandwe on Intimate Partner Violence.

To read installment 2, Click Here

To read installment 3, Click Here 

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