At the same time as national awareness of the issue of battering has increased in recent years, certain myths regarding abusive relationships still endure, including the idea that all batterers are alike. But as Neil S. Jacobson, Ph.D., and John Gottman, Ph.D., provide an explanation for, this is not the case. Drawing on the authors’ own research, When Men Batter Women offers a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the men who become batterers—and how to put a stop to the cycle of relationship violence.
After their decade of research with more than 200 couples, the authors conclude that not all batterers are alike, nor is the progression of their violence all the time predictable. But they have found that batterers tend to fall into one of two categories, which they call “Pit Bulls” and “Cobras.” Pit Bulls, men whose emotions quickly boil over, are driven by deep insecurity and an unhealthy dependence on the mates whom they abuse. Pit Bulls also tend to become stalkers, unable to let go of relationships that have ended.
Cobras, then again, are cool and methodical as they inflict pain and humiliation on their spouses or lovers; in one chilling discovery, the authors found that all over violent arguments and physical beatings the heart rate of Cobras actually declines. Cobras have steadily been physically or sexually abused themselves, steadily in childhood, and have a tendency to see violence as an unavoidable part of life.
Knowing which type a batterer is can be crucial to gauging whether an abusive relationship is salvageable (Pit Bulls can sometimes be helped through therapy) or whether the situation is beyond repair. Using the stories of several couples in their study, Jacobson and Gottman look at the dynamics of abusive relationships, refuting prevalent myths (“battering steadily stops on its own” or “battered women could stop the battering by changing their own behavior”). Never underestimating the inherent risk or danger involved, the authors discuss how women in their study group prepared themselves to leave an abusive relationship, where a battered woman can get help, and how she can keep herself safe.
Written with compassion and insight, When Men Batter Women offers invaluable advice and support to women in abusive relationships, as well as to friends, relatives, and caregivers who want to help.
When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships by Neil Jacobson and John Gottman, is based on a decade of research with more than 200 couples in dangerous relationships. Jacobson and Gottman, professors at the University of Washington, use their work to shatter myths and shed new light on abusive relationships.
They introduce two types of batterers: Cobras and Pit Bulls. The Cobras, the more severely violent of the two, strike all of a sudden and ferociously, all the time remaining in control and feeling entitled to whatever they want, whenever they want it. Pit Bulls are more likely to lose control, letting their emotions burn slowly until they explode in anger. The research is brought to life with stories of real couples such as George and Vicky. We see the few months of happiness in their marriage before George’s Cobra-like outbursts begin, and witness Vicky’s desire to make their failing relationship work.
Research results and advice are woven all over such accounts of how real people handled their situations. The authors address the many dangers of leaving an abusive spouse and the importance of forming a safety plan before doing so. Jacobson and Gottman do not come to optimistic conclusions about the ability to stop domestic violence or reform abusive men, but they are optimistic about the women. Their studies follow many women such as Vicky who ultimately left and began the difficult and courageous work of converting nightmares into dreams. –Amy Sessler
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