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Neither Angels nor Demons
Women, Crime, and Victimization
Kathleen Ferraro

Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law

2006 • 344 pp. 6 x 9"
Sociology / Women's Studies / Criminal Justice

$35.00 Paperback, 978-1-55553-663-3
$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-55553-860-6

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

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... [continued in Reviews below]”—The Law and Politics Book Review

A provocative study of the complex relationship between domestic violence and women’s crime.

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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Reviews / Endorsements

“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

“A compelling read. Few understand violence against women as deeply as Kathleen Ferraro. Neither Angels nor Demons exposes the pain, the ambivalence, the ‘making sense’ of living with violence. Ferraro challenges us all to begin to think outside of the criminal processing box, and inside a world that must imagine nonviolence.”—Betsy Stanko, Senior Advisor, London Metropolitan Police and Royal Holloway, University of London, author of Intimate Intrusions and Everyday Violence

“This brilliant analysis connects women’s victimization with women’s offending in ways that reveal the complexity of a deeply divided society. This book is unusual for its emphasis on how class inequality, racism, and colonialism interact with patriarchy and contribute to victimization. This is a provocative and heartbreaking book that will inspire new thinking about violence of many kinds.”—James Ptacek, Associate Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts

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.

Fri, 6 Jul 2018 13:13:16 -0500