Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level



Sociology and Criminal Justice


Mindy Bradley

Committee Member

Shauna Morimoto

Second Committee Member

Brandon Jackson


Social sciences, Interpersonal violence, Intimate partner violence


Intimate partner violence continues to be a controversial issue for the legal and criminal justice system. Difference in how people interpret violence in the domestic context can have substantial consequences for victim and bystander reporting and responses. Yet few studies have explored the possible influence of gender-based normative expectations for understanding instances of violence between men and women. How do perceptions of violence vary between relationship type and sex of the perpetrator? I test whether reports of criminality, recommendations to contact police, and perceived level of injury vary across relationship intimacy (i.e., acquaintance, dating, spouses) and perpetrator sex. I analyzed 292 undergraduate survey responses to vignettes involving intimate partner violence. Analyses revealed interesting effects regarding relationship type and gender. While violence between acquaintances increased the odds that respondents identified the act as criminal and recommended contacting the police, no differences emerged for police reporting or criminal identification between dating partners and spouses. Female violence was reported as less injurious, less criminal, and less worthy of police contact compared to men's violence. Male respondents reported the lowest ratings for female perpetrators' violence compared to female respondents. These differences were found across identical scenarios. Thus, my findings suggest gender norms may act as a backdrop for interpreting violence between women and men. I discuss the implications of this research for intimate partner violence prevention and intervention.