Neither Angels nor Demons: Women, Crime, and Victimization / Edition 1

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She is a victim of intimate partner violence, a woman who has been harmed. She is a criminal offender, a woman who has harmed others. Superficially, it seems she is two separate women.

“Victim” and “offender” are binary categories used within law, social science, and public discourse to describe social experiences with a moral dimension. Such terms draw upon cultural narratives of good and bad people and have influenced scholarship, public policy, and activism. The duality of “good” and “bad” women, separated into mutually exclusive extremes of angels and demons, has helped segregate thinking about, and responses to, each group.

In this groundbreaking study, Kathleen J. Ferraro exposes the limits of such thinking by exploring the link between victimization and offending from the perspective of the women charged with the crimes. Interviewing forty-five women charged with criminal offenses (more than half of whom killed their abusers; the others participated in a range of violent crimes related to domestic violence), Ferraro uses their stories to illuminate complex interactions with violent partners, their children, and the legal system. She shows that these women are neither stereotypical angels nor demons, but rather human beings whose complicated lives belie the abstract categorizations of researchers, legal advocates, and the criminal justice system.

Ferraro begins with a general discussion of blurred boundaries and the complexity of experience, and moves from there to discuss women’s interactions with the criminal processing system. In the course of her study, she reexamines, and finds wanting, many standard ways of evaluating women’s violent behavior, including “mutual combat,” “battered woman syndrome,” and “cycle of violence.” She argues that a more complex, nuanced understanding of intimate partner violence and how it contributes to women’s offending will contribute to public policy less focused on control and accountability of individuals than on developing social conditions that promote everyone’s safety and well-being and foster a sense of hope.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A more complete picture of intimate partner violence, helping to shed light on not only the private or the public, but also on how the two are so deeply interconnected. If you want a good analysis and discussion of the contextual, structural, and social forces that underlie domestic violence, then this book is an important one to read.”—The Law and Politics Book Review

“Ferraro makes a substantial contribution . . . This book is engaging, insightful, and invaluable for anyone interested in [domestic violence], or just good, solid, research.”—CHOICE

“Ferraro deftly weaves together research and extensive interviews with women serving lengthy or life sentences for retaliating against physical, sexual, and/or mental abuse at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands.”—Women’s Review of Books

“[C]ompelling . . . the book’s true strength comes in Ferraro’s analysis of the women’s narratives and in her ability to link the narratives to larger sociological themes of gender relations, power structures, social reality, violence, and victimization. . . . Ferraro’s study thus reminds us that labels can transform complex human experiences into categories that are socially constructed and reinforced and then take on a life of their own, with serious ramifications.”—American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555536633
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2006
  • Series: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHLEEN J. FERRARO is Professor of Sociology at Northern Arizona University. A respected authority in the field, she has worked closely with battered women as an active participant in the anti-violence against women movement.
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Table of Contents

Blurred Boundaries and the Complexities of Experience
Irreconcilable Differences: Women’s Encounters with the Criminal Processing System
Negotiating Surreality
The Social Reproduction of Women’s Pain
Demonic Angels?: Violence against Abusers
Angelic Demons?: Crimes of Complicity
Epilogue appendixes
Pseudonym, Race/Ethnicity, Charges, Relationship to Victim(s), and Role in Offense
Abuse of Drugs and Alcohol
Women Who Killed Their Husbands/Partners
Context of Violence against Husbands/Partners
Prior Police Involvement, Children, Work, Abused as Child, and Parental Absence
Women Who Committed Crimes against Others
A Note on Method
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    Qualitative Sociology at its' best

    For years Ferraro has been one of the most respected names in the field of Domestic Violence and her years of experience show in this book. Ferraro's shockingly detailed accounts of the pain and suffering of the many women she interviews keep the reader's interest throughout the book. I suggest this work not just for academics, but anyone interested in learning about what battered women and women in the criminal justice system go through. In one word this work is: profound!

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