Is wife beating as inevitable as the common cold? Langley and Levy, two Washington journalists, emphasize that this is not a ""feminist tract,"" but their case histories are hair-raising enough to be consciousness-raising. Statistics are spotty and hard to come by, since uniform police-reporting procedures don't exist, and shame and guilt often keep the victim from reporting even the most savage attacks. What kind of man beats his wife? The myth of the beer-besotted lower-class gorilla is just that, a myth: wife-beaters turn up in all age ranges, economic brackets, and educational levels--lawyers, doctors, clergymen, business executives, and psychiatrists do it. What kind of woman puts up with it? A woman who loves her man, thinks he'll reform, worries about economic survival, has no place to go. Rarely are the women masochists who ""ask for it""--any more than rape victims ""ask for it."" Cops and courts get a bad press here, for their reluctance to intervene in ""family squabbles"" and arrest the clobbering hubby for this, the most endemic form of violence in our violent society. Estimates of the number of women who sporadically or regularly endure beatings range up to a staggering 50%--whether it's in Grosse Point of the Detroit ghetto. Remedies? The authors don't presume to know how to prevent such barbarism, but there is a final chapter which outlines the help that lawyers and crisis-intervention centers can provide to women who've taken one punch too many. A sketchy survey, necessarily, but one which indicates the appalling magnitude of this ugliness.