Women’s Experience of Rage: A Critical Feminist Analysis


  • Kimberly Flemke, PhD, is assistant professor at Drexel University in the Graduate Programs of Couples and Family Therapy and works clinically at Council for Relationships, Philadelphia; and Katherine R. Allen, PhD, is professor of family studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

  • This paper was presented in November 2006 at the National Council on Family Relations conference in Minneapolis, MN. This research was supported by a grant from the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation, administered by the New York Community Trust. Thanks to Claire Renzetti, Karen Rosen, and Sandi Stith for their insights and support during the research process. In addition, deep appreciation is expressed to the participants of this study, as well as to the prison’s clinical director and her staff, whose assistance made this research possible.

Address correspondence to Kimberly Flemke., PhD, Drexel University, Programs of Couple and Family Therapy, 245 N. 15th St., Mail Stop 905, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102; E-mail: kf53@drexel.edu


We conducted in-depth interviews with 37 incarcerated women on their experience of rage towards their intimate partner. Participants used specific criteria to distinguish their experience of rage from anger. Rage is described as an overwhelming experience with particular physiological and cognitive changes that takes control of a woman’s emotions and actions. In contrast, anger is described as a controllable emotion with a specific termination point. Motivations for acting violently in rage with an intimate partner are described and discussed. Findings suggest a primary trigger for experiencing rage is feeling threatened and feeling emotionally overwhelmed.