Bystander Reaction to Women Fighting: Developing a Theory of Intervention

Robert D. Lowe, Mark Levine, Rachel M. Best, Derek Heim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores accounts of bystanders to female-on-female public violence. Group interviews with participants in the night-time economy are carried out. Whereas men tend to respond to the discussion topic of female-on-female violence with laughter, this laughter reveals ambivalence and discomfort as much as amusement. Men seem to negotiate the tension between the expectation that they should intervene in emergencies and a catalogue of costs that attend intervention. Female bystanders appear to have a different set of concerns. They talk about feelings of shame at the interpersonal and the group level. Women cite the public spectacle, and the opportunity for men to demean or sexualize women, as reasons for intervention. The article concludes with some recommendations about the importance of exploring female violence in its own terms, beginning with a series of identified moral and social dilemmas incurred within possible third-party intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1802-1826
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9
Early online date18 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • gender
  • public violence
  • laughter
  • shame
  • bystander intervention


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