Differences and Similarities Between the Patterns of Abuse
The violent acts involved in both situational couple violence and intimate terrorism can range from relatively innocuous behavior, such as pushing and shoving, to life-threatening attacks or homicide, and both types of violent relationships can involve anything from infrequent, isolated incidents to regular assaults.
In the case of frequent situational couple violence, for example, the relationship may involve areas of conflict that continue to be unresolved and one or more partners who regularly choose to resort to violence in the context of those conflicts.
In the case of infrequent intimate terrorism, one assault may be enough to establish a level of fear that allows the intimate terrorist to exert control almost exclusively by means of nonviolent tactics.
The two types of violence are not defined by the nature or frequency of violent acts but solely in terms of the relationship-level control context in which they are embedded. Intimate terrorism is violence that is embedded in a general pattern of control; situational couple violence is not (Johnson & Leone, 2005).
Intimate terrorism is hypothesized to be characterized by more frequent and injurious physical violence that escalates over time and is almost exclusively perpetrated by men against women, with the female partner using violence only in self-defense if she uses it at all. Intimate terrorism is thought to be more characteristic of clinical, emergency department, criminal justice (at least in the past), and domestic violence shelter populations, whereas situational couple violence is thought to be more common at the population level (Frye, Manganello, Campbell, Walton-Moss, & Wilt, 2006).