Survivor Violence

Survivor violence is assaultive behavior by a survivor that, while it may be frequent, is ineffective in altering power and control in a relationship. The goal of this violence is to increase the survivor’s options. Survivor violence may meet the legal definition of abuse but it does not meet the behavioral definition. Survivor violence also tends to be in proportion to the threat and to cease when the threat is gone. This is in distinction to abusive violence, which tends to be extreme and continue until exhaustion.

Survivor violence may include episodic coercion but with a completely different goal. Because primary aggressors do not comply with any attempts by the survivor to be coercive, the situation rapidly escalates and so the survivors actions tend to come more easily to the attention of police. This is why there are still far too many 'victim-defendents.'

Survivor violence may or may not meet the legal definition of self-defense, usually it doesn't. Unlike stranger violence, a survivor cannot avoid the primary aggressor or attempt to flee at first sight. This makes the legal construction of self-defense inadequate for survivors of intimate partner violence, and survivors are sometimes themselves charged with domestic violence by mechanically applied mandatory arrest laws. It has even become another tactic of primary aggressors to maneuver partners into this situation.

Therefore, when a women is charged with domestic violence, the public safety and public health communities carefully try to separate someone using survivor violence, (‘victim-defendants’) from the occasional woman with a position of power and control (primary aggressor.) Survivor violence can usefully be discussed as having several sub-goals which may influence how it is treated: