Psychological Self-Help

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The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships
(2002), and Intimate Violence: Contemporary Treatment Innovations (2003).
These are sophisticated analyses. The most important finding is that the
abusive husband is often mentally tormented and self-loathing. Many
batterers have a fragile sense of self stemming usually from a shaming
father, an emotionally detached mother, and an early home environment
ruled by violence. The abuser’s childhood experiences produces a post-
traumatic stress disorder in a man who has identified with a critical,
demanding father and who now has a strong fear-laden attachment to a
woman whom he batters but needs badly. Several therapists have described
different dynamics within different kinds of batterers: (1) the psychopathic or
generally violent/antisocial type, (2) the emotional/borderline & impulsive
type, and (3) the aloof/over controlled type, (4) the family only aggressor,
(5) the cyclical hot and cold type, and others. There are a lot of ways to be a
batterer. If you are going to read only one text, read one of Dutton’s (2003)
latest books. But there are several new books about physically violent men
and women (see the Books & Websites section below.)
The mental picture of spouse abuse is often a big, tough, burly enraged male
beating up on a small, trembling, totally dominated female. Some writers in
the domestic violence field seem to imply that within all males there is a
latent abuser just waiting to hit his wife or girlfriend if she does anything
wrong. Even among men there are tendencies to think of men who are
supportive of the Women’s Movement as being weak, henpecked, or
castrated. Men are expected to be quiet and “handle aggressive women like a
man, meaning say nothing.” Only since the early 1990’s has research results
been showing rather clearly that men are psychologically degraded, shamed,
dominated, insulted, victimized and physically injured about as much as
women are. Male abuse is often hidden, just as female abuse is. Interesting
Department of Justice statistics currently show that 35% to 40% of all
domestic violence victims are males. Moreover, recent studies suggest that
younger, college-aged women are at least as violent as younger men and
perhaps up to twice as violent as their partners. It certainly appears that the
two genders are about equally abusive (considering all kinds of abuse),
although the common opinion, I believe, is that women suffer more injuries
than men. But this is open to question: one study of hospital Emergency
Rooms in 2004 found that more men than women had injuries of a serious
nature from domestic violence. Perhaps our views of gender roles in domestic
violence need to be revised.
Okay, then why does husband abuse occur? One of the best sources of
information about abuse of men is in a book by Philip Cook (1997) the
subtitle of the book is The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. This is an
excellent description of the other side of family fights…the role of female
anger, aggression, and violence. Cook provides case studies and some
insight; he give some self-help suggestions for victims but avoids gender bias
in which men or women are seen as villains. Who commits the violence is an
important issue, even if the answer is usually “both of them,” e.g. consider
how often accusations of violence are verbalized in divorce hearings—one
partner tries to get custody of the children by claiming the other parent
abuses them or the children…or one parent tries to keep the children from
seeing the other parent by vilifying the other parent. We know so little about
husband abuse. Some women probably have the same fears, needs, and
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