A provocative psychological study of why men batter women and why women take it. For years many battered women have suffered from the misperception that being beaten is somehow their fault. After a 10-year study of 200 couples—60 of whom were studied intensively—psychologists Gottman (Univ. of Washington; Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, 1994, etc.) and Jacobson (Univ. of Washington) squash that myth and others in this revealing book. The uniqueness of their work begins with the methodology itself. The authors videotaped and observed nonviolent arguments of severe batterers and their spouses, and used control groups of nonviolent yet unhappily married couples. They also eliminated some of the subjectivity inherent in analyzing these arguments by hooking up couples to a variety of monitors that measured vital signs, such as heart rate and sweat flow, as they argued. As a result, the authors make a number of important new discoveries, including the delineation of two overall types of batterers. Pit Bulls, as they call one group, are violent because they are incredibly insecure. They fear losing their wives and therefore attempt to control them through physical and emotional abuse. Cobras, on the other hand, resemble the snake for which they are named, which ``becomes quite still and focused just before striking its victim.'' They become internally calm during abuse, as evidenced from the fact that—unlike Pit Bulls, whose heart rates increase while verbally abusing their wives—Cobras' heart rates actually decrease. It is the Cobras, the authors argue, who are the more violent of the two groups. Refreshingly jargon-free, the book ends with specific advice about how our society could better deal with domestic violence and concrete suggestions for women wishing to leave abusive relationships. Since wife-battering has moved to the front of our collective consciousness, this is a useful book that deserves national attention.
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