Violence between Lovers, Strangers, and Friends

76 Pages Posted: 8 May 2007 Last revised: 8 Aug 2013

See all articles by Carissa Byrne Hessick

Carissa Byrne Hessick

University of North Carolina School of Law


The conventional wisdom in criminal law is that violence between strangers is a more serious crime than violence between individuals who know one another. When asked about their crime concerns, most people respond that they fear becoming the victim of a violent crime at the hands of a stranger. Yet more violent crimes occur between people who are intimate partners, family members, friends, or acquaintances than between strangers. This Article identifies and examines arguments in favor of treating stranger violence more seriously, and it concludes that none of the arguments justifies the unequal treatment of stranger and non-stranger violence. The Article also identifies several affirmative reasons why violence in close personal relationships might be considered more serious than stranger violence. Ultimately, the Article concludes that non-stranger violence should be treated just as seriously as stranger violence, and it briefly explores a few practical challenges associated with the prevention and punishment of violence between non-strangers.

Keywords: stranger, violence, criminal law, punishment, fear of crime

Suggested Citation

Hessick, Carissa Byrne, Violence between Lovers, Strangers, and Friends. Washington University Law Review, Vol. 85, 2007, University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 37, Available at SSRN:

Carissa Byrne Hessick (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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