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The Social Construction Of Violence: The Case Of Sexual And Domestic Violence

Charlene L. Muehlenhard, Leigh Ann Kimes

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What counts as “violence” is socially constructed, has varied over time, and reflects power relationships. Informed by social constructionism, we illustrate these points using as examples sexual violence and domestic violence. We review changes in how society and social scientists have defined and understood these topics during the last 30 years. We then discuss 3 areas of continuing controversy: who should decide if sexual or domestic violence has occurred, what to count as sexual and domestic violence, and the role of gender in defining sexual and domestic violence.