Unfinished Forgiveness: The Joint Meaning of Forgiveness in Intimate Partner Violence

Aviva Zrihan-Weitzman, Eli Buchbinder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Recent years have seen increased awareness of the need to understand forgiveness in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV). The present qualitative study focused on how male’s batterers and female victims perceived forgiveness in their relationships. It was based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 15 couples; 30 men and women aged 31 to 61, married between 5 and 30 years and still living together. Recruitment of study participants was via social workers in centres for treatment and prevention of family violence in Israel. The study findings show that male batterers understood forgiveness from a dual self-perception, as both perpetrator and victim. This dual perception blurred perpetrator and victim roles, creating complex forgiveness dynamics in relationships. This situation was manifest in batterers as they moved between positions as perpetrators granting forgiveness and victims granting forgiveness. Male batterers understood their expressions of remorse as entitling demands for forgiveness from their partners. Additionally, when wives granted husbands forgiveness they did so in accordance with preconceived ideas about the relationship and its future. In sum, forgiveness preserved the status quo in relationships and legitimised men’s self-perception as victims, including feeling entitled to accuse the women of being partially responsible for the violence. The blurring of the distinction between requesting and granting forgiveness was paradoxical. On the one hand, it fed the desire to continue the relationship and on the other hand, it reinforced the men’s sense of perpetual vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWebbing Vicissitudes of Forgiveness
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781848882775
ISBN (Print)9789004374188
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Inter-Disciplinary Press 2014.


  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • apologies
  • batterers
  • forgiveness
  • perpetrator and victim identities
  • victims

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Unfinished Forgiveness: The Joint Meaning of Forgiveness in Intimate Partner Violence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this