Course Description: This course explores various forms of violence in families including violence between spouses and violence of parents toward children. Factors contributing to the violence will be discussed as well as methods of preventing and/or ameliorating patterns of violence within families. Students in this course will develop an understanding of the reciprocal relationship between the family and society by exploring violence in families as a training ground for societal violence as well as how family patterns are influenced by the values and attitudes in larger society. (This course counts toward the CJS, NVS, & WGS minors.)

Course Goals: The one thing everyone in this class shares in common is their respective memberships in families. Regardless of families\’ shapes and sizes, they are the most volatile places on earth. The emotions one associates with family members are the strongest and most powerful that one feels. All too often we assume that families are safe havens, but the truth is that these strong emotions can often be dangerous, violent, and perhaps even deadly. The overall goal of this course is for each student to read, write, and grow as a person and a scholar. However, a more practical goal is for all students to have an increased awareness of how volatile families can be, and to recognize the signs of abusive behavior in their own relationships and those of others. The information from this course should build upon a strong knowledge base drawn from the social sciences, and should prepare one for work in the area of social work, sociology, or psychology.

Course Objectives:
At the conclusion of the course every student should be able to:

  1. Identify and compare issues concerning violence in families.
  2. Explain the complexity of defining “family.”
  3. Provide clear and concise descriptions and analyses of the different types of violence in families that are taking place in American society today.
  4. Develop skills to work in groups to analyze and offer policy recommendations to address a particular problem.
  5. Interpret and critique contemporary social arrangements related to violence in families.
  6. Discover and re-evaluate one\’s own ideas, positions, and values concerning family relationships and violence in families.
  7. Make a sound argument in support of one side or the other of the “family violence” debate.
  8. Write clearly, in both substantive and technical terms, and document sources properly.
  9. I have constructed a syllabus that, I hope, will enable us to reach these objectives. I reserve the right to change any portion of the syllabus in order to meet the objectives of the course.

Required Resources:

Bancroft, Lundy and Jay G. Silverman. 2002. The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic
Violence on Family Dynamics. (selected chapters) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sokoloff, Natalie and Christina Pratt, eds. 2005. Domestic Violence at the Margins: Readings on Race, Class, Gender, and Culture, (selected chapters) New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wallace, Harvey. 2008. Family Violence: Legal, Medical and Social Perspectives, 5th edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Readings scanned into Blackboard:

Bancroft, Lundy. 2002. Chapter 3 from Why Does He Do That?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York, NY: Berkley Books.

Browne, Angela. 1987. Chapters 8 & 9 from When Battered Women Kill, New York, NY: The Free Press.

Cook, Philip W. 1997. Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Kurz, Demi. “Physical Assaults by Husbands: A Major Social Problem.”

Mellor, M. Joanna and Patricia Brownell, eds. 2006. Three articles from Elder Abuse and Mistreatment: Policy, Practice, and Research. New York, NY: The Haworth Press.

Renzetti, Claire. 1997. “Violence and Abuse Among Same-Sex Couples” in Violence Between Intimate Partners, Albert Cardarelli, ed. Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon.

Shamai, Michal. “Couple Therapy with Battered Women and Abusive Men: Does it have a future?”

Strauss, Murray. “Physical Assaults by Wives: A Major Social Problem.”

Tolman, Richard. “Expanding Sanctions for Batterers: What can we do besides jailing and counseling them?”

Weiss, Elaine. 2003. Checklists from Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to listen, talk and take action when someone you care about is being abused. Volcano, CA: Volcano Press.

Weiss, Elaine. 2000. Chapters 1, 7, & 12 in Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free.
Agreka Books.

Williams, Oliver J., Jacquelyn L Boggess, and Janet Carter. 2001. “Fatherhood and Domestic Violence: Exploring the Role of Men Who Batter in the Lives of Their Children.” In Domestic Violence in the Lives of Children: The Future of Research, Intervention, and Social Policy, Sandra Graham-Bermann and Jeffrey Edleson, eds. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Two electronic articles on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Teaching Method: Each class session will focus on a specific topic identified in the class schedule. The primary teaching method will be small group work, class discussions, and films. Students are responsible for completing the readings and other assignments for each class session prior to the date they will be discussed.

Course Requirements and Evaluation:
Assessment of student attainment of the course objectives will include:

Assignments Due Date Points in Final Grade
1. Midterm 10/16  100
2. Research Paper (Critical Assessment of MVP, etc.) 11/25 100
3. Research Presentation 12/2,12/4, 12/9  100
4. Activity reports of school visits w/ MVP class day after visit  100
5. Group evaluation (MVP groups) last week of class  100
6. Professor evaluation of MVP work – – – 100
7. Service & Course Reflection Journal by 9/25  100
by 10/23  100
by 11/20  100
8. Comprehensive Final examination 12/12  100
9. Attendance, preparation & participation  100

TOTAL  900

Grading Scale:

783 – 809 = B+ 693 – 719 = C+ 603 – 629 = D+ Below 540 = F
837 – 900 = A 747 – 782 = B 657 – 692 = C 567 – 602 = D
810 – 836 = A- 720 – 746 = B- 630 – 656 = C- 540 – 566 = D-

Attendance, Preparation & Participation:
Your attendance is expected each time class is scheduled. Your preparation and participation are essential for the success of this class. If you are present but are clearly not prepared for class or engaged in the class discussion, you will be considered absent for that day’s class. I will assess your advance preparation for class by requiring you to provide 3 discussion questions each day, which you generate as a result of doing the assigned reading for that class. Your questions will be the basis for a portion of our class discussion, so it is most important that you are prepared. I will collect these questions at the beginning of each class, so be sure to bring 2 copies to class with you each time.

You are the only person who can turn in your discussion questions. Do not email them to me, or slide them under my office door. They are due, by you, at the beginning of each class period. For each set of discussion questions that you fail to turn in, you will be docked 3 points off your final grade, regardless of the reason for their omission. Please make every effort possible to be in attendance and prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day that we meet.

Finally, Classroom Atmosphere: Despite the fact that Violence in Families is a pretty heavy-duty topic to discuss for fifteen weeks, I want us to have a good time. So, we need to create an inviting classroom environment. We are going to discuss very sensitive topics throughout the semester, and while I hope none of you have first-hand knowledge of these social phenomena, I realize that is not likely. Therefore, we all have to be extra sensitive to our remarks in the classroom because we have no idea what may have happened to the person sitting right next to us. Please be considerate of each other’s feelings as we move through all of this material.

Details of each assignment are provided within a separate document posted on our blackboard site. Please take the time to review these instructions carefully, and let me know any questions that you may have.

Tentative Class Schedule:

Date, Readings (to be completed by date listed), Class Activities

9/2, Wallace 1 – Characteristics of FV, Welcome & Orientation,
Collect class & work schedules

9/4 Wallace 9 – Spousal Abuse, Bancroft, chapter 3 (BB), “Tough Guise” video

9/9 Training for MVP program

9/11 Training for MVP program

9/16 Straus & Kurz Debate (BB), Cook chapter (BB), Weiss, chapter 1 (BB)

9/18 Wallace 14 – Women & Sexual Violence

9/23 Browne, Chapters 8 & 9 (BB)

9/25 Weiss, Chpts. 7 & 13 (BB), First Journal Entry due

9/30 Sokoloff, Chpts. 2 & 5

10/2 Sokoloff, Chpts. 11 & 13

10/7 Renzetti article (BB), Wallace 12 – Gay & Lesbian Abuse

10/9 Wallace 10 – CJS Response to Spouse Abuse, Tolman article – Sanctions for Men (BB), Shamai article – Couple Therapy (BB)

10/14 Sokoloff, Chpts. 18 & 24


10/21 NO CLASS due to Fall break

10/23 Williams, et al. article (BB), Wallace 2 – Physical Child Abuse Second Journal Entry due

10/28 Bancroft & Silverman, Chapters 2 & 3

10/30 Wallace 3 – Child Sexual Abuse

11/4 Article on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (BB)

11/6 Wallace 4 – Child Neglect

11/11 Bancroft & Silverman, Chapter 9, Wallace 7 – Professionals, Response to Child Abuse Speaker (Guardian ad Litem office)

11/13 Wallace 5 – Sibling Abuse

11/18 Wallace 11 – Elder Abuse

11/20 Readings on elder abuse (BB), Articles 3 & 4 from Mellor & Brownell (BB), Third Journal Entry due

11/25 Articles 1 & 2 from Mellor & Brownell (BB), Research papers due

11/27 NO CLASS due to Thanksgiving

12/2 Group project presentations

12/4 Group project presentations

12/9 Wallace 16 – Consequences of FV and Wallace 17 – Victim’s Rights Group project presentations

12/12 Exam: 8:30 – 11:30 am

If you have any questions about anything we\’re doing in class (e.g., material we\’re covering, assignments, etc.), please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail. I will either answer your question via that medium, or be happy to set up an appointment with you.

The MVP Program:

What is it?

We plan to implement a program called Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) in the local high schools to educate students about gender violence, alcohol/consent issues, and sexual harassment. MVP was developed at the Center for the Study of Sports in Society at Northeastern University (, and has been utilized across the country in various settings to educate young people on these topics. The program empowers people so that they can overcome the urge to be a bystander when faced with a violent situation. They are presented with role-plays that illustrate viable options for responding to incidents of violence, abuse, or harassment. They learn that there are numerous ways to respond, and they take home valuable skills and the power to act when confronted by these situations.

FAS has a Community Educator / Volunteer Coordinator on staff, who goes into the schools and provides educational programs to various grade levels, but with only one person, her ability to reach as many young people as possible is certainly limited. By incorporating the students from HUS 349 into this process, we will be able to extend the current efforts of FAS and Crossroads and take this innovative program (MVP) into the high schools to reach young people who are experiencing some of their first intimate relationships.

The MVP program will accomplish several goals:

  1. The program will empower young men and women to act when faced with violent, coercive, and harassing situations.
  2. The program will educate young people about healthy enactments of masculinity and femininity.
  3. They will learn that while many features of our culture (e.g., media messages) encourage male control and violence, this is not acceptable and it’s not “cool.” We will begin to work on changing the male peer culture, so that men who abuse women will lose status in the eyes of their peers.

The goals of this program and the messages embedded within the program’s structure are consistent with the theories and arguments presented for years by various scholars whose work focuses on issues related to gender and violence (e.g., Connell, 1987; Johnson, 2001; Martin & Hummer, 1989; McBride, 1995; Messner & Sabo, 1994).

How will we do it?

We plan to visit the health classes in all of the local high schools. This plan will include 5 – 6 high schools with 2 – 3 health classes each quarter, so all total this will be 36 – 48 class visits during our fall semester. With approximately 30 students enrolled in HUS 349, we will be sending teams of 3 – 5 students out to the high schools (hopefully teams comprised of female and male students). The classes are 90 minutes long, so Elon students will be spending between 6 – 12 hours in the field, actually providing the MVP program to the high school students. Students will be expected to meet outside of class time to coordinate and practice their presentations. All total the Elon students will complete a minimum of 20 hours of academic service learning for the course.