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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

11 - Intimate partner violence


When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

Deuteronomy 21:10–14; New International Version

In a great many historical societies, including classical Greece, a person taken captive by force may be obliged to become a dependent subordinate in an AR relationship with his or her captor; everyone in the culture construed this relationship as entirely legitimate, and it had full moral and legal validity. In many historical cultures, many women captured in warfare or raids were married by their captors, with more or less full status as wives (except that they had no kin to support them in conflicts with their husband, or to return to if they had to leave their marriage; e.g., for Africa, see Kopytoff and Miers, 1977; Robertson and Klein, 1983). In many such societies, the predominant form of marriage was that lineage elders gave their daughter to a husband chosen by the elders, who typically did not consult the bride about her preferences, so marriage did not involve the bride’s choice in any case. (In some cultures, the groom was not necessarily consulted, either.) In social systems where everyone was a subordinate dependant of someone who exercised control and ownership over them but also looked out for and protected them, the AR relationships between master or husband and wife, concubine, or slave were similar in many respects (Kopytoff, 1988). Likewise, in many historical African, Asian, and other societies, male dependants, whether born into the family, purchased, adopted, or captured, related to their elders and chiefs in similar ways, although in general slaves had lower status and were stigmatized.