Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals

Understanding Domestic Abusers

Other Forms of Intimate Partner Violence - Situational Violence71 (i.e., Fights)


A pattern of handling conflicts with violence, on the part of one or both partners.


Fights, arguments, disagreements. 

Gender of perpetrators
How do fights differ from domestic abuse ?
Consequences to targets
Implications for intervention

Resolving the conflict ends the fight – though it may not end a pattern of handling conflicts with violence. Couple counseling may be helpful.

Clinicians should always screen for coercive control in private interviews with each partner before agreeing to any request for couple counseling. 

Caution! Both victims and abusers often describe incidents of domestic abuse  as ‘fights.”  While screening for coercive control, clinicians should not take that language at face value, but should inquire as to what usually happens during fights or arguments, as well as at other times.  For the safety of victims, it is critical not to mistake domestic abuse for situational violence.

Questions to ask yourself if you are considering couple counseling
If you don’t feel safe, do not let yourself be pushed into couple counseling against your better judgment.

Next:  Gender and domestic abuse: Gender and Intimate Partner Violence

Back To Understanding Domestic Abusers homepage

  1. Kelly and Johnson (2008).
  2. But see The Myth of Mutual Violence. (LGBT section)
  3. Kelly and Johnson (2008).