In the past two decades, there has been an upsurge of inquiry into violence between intimates. The growth of social services in the 1960s, designed primarily to wrestle with extramarital social problems such as stranger crime or substance abuse, not only focused public policy on the economic behavior of families (Gilbert, 1983), but also opened up the family as a social institution amenable to public scrutiny. Accordingly, family social interactions became increasingly subject to social interventions and legal sanctions (Wexler, 1982). Until public policy focused attention on the private realm of family life, few people considered the home to be other than ''a compassionate, egalitarian, peaceful affair in which violence played no part" (Wardell et al., 1983).
Three major trends in this era raised doubts about this tranquil view of American family life. First, the "discovery" of child abuse through medical and sociological research in the mid-1960s focused public attention on family violence (e.g., Caffey, 1946; Silverman, 1953; Kempe et al., 1962; see also Gil, 1970). Child abuse victims had a visceral and emotional public appeal. Several national organizations came into being to promote services and financial support for child victims, and to work for statutory changes and improved protections. A nationwide reporting system was implemented during the 1970s, and laws mandated formal reports to designated agencies by parents, teachers, and police officers who became aware of child abuse or neglect.
Second, political activism by feminist organizations at that time helped make visible the use of physical force as a means of intimidation or coercion within the family and elevated it to prominence as a social concern (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1978; Schechter, 1982). Much of this awareness was engendered by the modern women's movement which, in the 1960s, began to examine violence against women around the issue of rape. Such discussion revealed the prevalence of women experiencing sexual assaults by intimate male partners, rather than strangers, and provided a forum for the identification of the physical assault of wives as a problem of previously unrecognized national proportions.
Concern over the harm to women (specifically, serious injuries and fatalities), and also to the children for whom they cared, intensified as the public became aware of the confluence of family violence and other violent behaviors outside the family. Violence in the home, previously informally condoned because it was "private," was now defined in a social context as deviant and placed in the public domain, marking a "moral passage" in American