This chapter is concerned with understanding the violence that occurs in the context of intimate and sexual relationships. This topic demands further understanding of the violence that occurs in relationships between people, and particularly how violence interacts with issues of gender. Studies reviewed in the last chapter (Chapter 7, ‘Understanding Violence’) suggest that the most frequent incidents of fatal violence are those occurring in the context of intimate and sexual relationships. There is good evidence that this is indicative of high levels of general violence occurring within sexual and family relationships. For a number of years, concern has been raised about the apparent regularity with which women meet violence at the hands of men (Tham et al. 1995), usually when the men are married to, or otherwise involved in a sexual relationship with, the victim (Dobash and Dobash 1979). For example, Walby and Allen (2004), using a British Crime Survey methodology, found that 21 per cent of women reported at least one incident of non-sexual domestic threat of, or use of, force since their sixteenth birthday. Walby and Allen (2004) also found that 7 per cent of women in their sample reported having suffered serious sexual assault at least once in their lifetime. These and other similar observations made over the years have led to political analyses of how such events need to be understood in terms of the power that men have traditionally held over women. Perhaps male violence and sexual violence in particular can be understood
in terms of patriarchy; that is, a cultural order that suggests that it is acceptable for men to dominate and control women (Brownmiller 1975). It is certainly difﬁcult to contradict those who argue that in many ways violence against women appears to have been culturally sanctioned. Historically, women have been viewed as the property of men; indeed, rape was considered to be impossible within marriage until 1991 in England and Wales.