Among researchers who work on predicting violence, domestic abuse is recognized as an important clue that a person may be a future risk to society.

Zachary Hamilton

“When you are trying to predict violent recidivism, you tend to find that domestic violence is one of the strongest predictors,” said Zachary Hamilton, a WSU assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology who studies risk assessment as director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice.

He cited an analysis of criminal offenders in Washington state, which found that a felony domestic violence conviction was the single greatest predictor of future violent crime.

“That’s not to say that every instance of domestic violence ends up predicting future violent acts, but it is one correlate that says that if someone engages in domestic violence, they’re less likely to frown upon any acts of violence,” he said. “It is an indicator of that person’s makeup.”

Melanie-Angela Neuilly
Melanie-Angela Neuilly

Melanie-Angela Neuilly, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at WSU, offered one theory that may help explain the connection between domestic violence and general violence: the idea of toxic masculinity.

“We raise our boys with an acceptance that violence will be part of their behaviors (’boys will be boys’), while teaching them to repress all feelings except for anger (’boys don’t cry’), in a society which objectifies girls and women,” she explained. “While problematic in and of itself (’patriarchy hurts men too’), we see that abusers overwhelming come from abusive background, and thus only replicate patterns they have learned during their childhoods, patterns which, while criminal, are ultimately reinforced in a number of ways in a masculine culture of violence.”

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