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Ignoring Battered Husbands Hurts Women, Too

from Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Copyright © 1998 by Philip W. Cook

     
 
Book cover
Abused Men
The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

by Philip W. Cook
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Suzanne Steinmetz co-authored Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, one of the first to explore the entire range of family violence. This book was widely praised and was used as support for women's groups opening shelters for battered women. Her later article "The Battered Husband Syndrome" in Victimology, however, raised a lot of controversy. This excerpt from Phil Cook's book Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence (from pp. 112-113, reprinted with the kind permission of the author) reports what Steinmetz said in an interview with Mr.Cook.

I was told before giving an address at a Canadian university I would have major problems by one group of radical women. They wrote to the college president and said I would be stopped from coming to speak.

Well, I went to speak anyway, of course. I'm giving my speech; I notice this group of women shaking their heads and agreeing with me. Because I'm pointing out that the bottom line is that women get the short end of the stick anyway. When we say women can't possibly be violent, she must have done it for some reason, it's nothing, it's no big deal, let's ignore it and so on, we are in essence denying women services. When a man beats up a woman, right away he's put in a program for batterers. He's given support. He's helped to deal with his problem. ...

I was making the point in this speech that no matter how you cut it, even in a case where the man is the victim of the abuse, the system has denied women any services so that they wouldn't do this again or so that they might feel in control. I don't know how many service providers have called me up and told me how they had to turn these women away because they don't know what to do--they don't have any services for them.

In many cases, the radical feminists running the shelter would put a political twist on things. They would tell these women, "He must have done something." When a woman asks for help, and is told that she doesn't have a problem, that it's her mate's fault, it is very similar to what was happening in the 19650s and `960s to abused women.

That's when women were very depressed, and they had a lot of clinical depression. ...

After the speech, I asked my academic colleagues over dinner where the radical women's group was that was going to shout me down and prevent me from speaking. They told me that it was the group sitting over in one corner that was agreeing with what I was saying, and asking questions, and saying how wonderful it was.

That evening, we had a very unusual (for an academic speech) open-to-the-public forum. It was like what we used to see in the early years when we did battered women events. Men were running up to the microphone and talking about how they had been abused. Women were jumping up and comforting them. Women were jumping up and talking about how they abused their husband, and they felt so bad, and didn't know where to turn, and another woman would jump up and comfort her. ...

This article is excerpted from Philip W. Cook's book Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, and appears with his kind permission. Mr. Cook is a former broadcast journalist and currently writes and lectures on domestic violence and gender issues.

     

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