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Book and Media Reviews
October 22 2008

Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse

JAMA. 2008;300(16):1943-1950. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.523

I began violence prevention work in 1980, and since 1986 I have reviewed 8 books on violence and spousal abuse for JAMA. Violent Partners is the first book I have read that completely aligns with my views on how to end the cycle of abuse and violence within the United States. This is an improvement to the direction feminist advocates took 30 years ago, when they began to fight against domestic violence.

The first chapter establishes the author's credentials by supplying personal stories of abuse, which provide honest conversation about her concern that the “criminal justice only” approach to domestic violence was not adequate. Chapter 2 provides a cogent history of the Battered Women's Movement, noting that the first domestic violence shelter was founded in 1974 and that by 1977 there were 89 shelters for battered women in the United States. The author does an exemplary job of outlining how the feminist crusade went about criminalizing domestic violence. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (I was a member of the VAWA Advisory Council appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno and Donna Shalala, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, 1995-2000). The third chapter in part 1 presents a case of domestic violence and abuse that highlights the complexity of these situations.