The Violent Couple

The Violent Couple

The Violent Couple

The Violent Couple


This book offers a social movement perspective on family violence, framing the discovery of abuse toward women and men as a "natural" development flowing out of social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It combines clinical and statistical methods to yield a sophisticated understanding of the dynamics underlying spousal violence. It examines both men's violence and the violence of their female partners, both psychological as well as physical. The problem of women's violence is one that has remained largely ignored compared to the mountain of research on men's violence toward women. The authors present the first in-depth examination of how, when, and why women instigate violence and why violent couples require a systems-level intervention program rather than simply trying to counter male violence. There is a strong consideration of factors that can work to reduce or eliminate the problem.


There seems to be a ritual that almost all authors of books on family violence respect. Each volume leads off with an emotional "grabber" anecdote or two that uniformly portray a rather brutal, insensitive man abusing a sympathetic, victimized woman; this is done to build immediate concern for the violence problem.

Consider, however, the following pair of true stories that we encountered:

Michael, now a scientist and professor at a southwestern university, had fallen in love with a South Korean woman named Han while he was stationed as an Army sergeant in Seoul from 1971 to 1973. They married shortly after and settled in the United States, where he started graduate school. Han was physically smaller than Michael, but that difference quickly evaporated when, during a verbal argument as Michael drove them away from the campus one night, she cold- cocked him in the ear with her purse and broke his glasses.

Perhaps because of cultural differences and her own insecurities in a society much less structured about men's and women's roles than her own, Han had become obsessively jealous about her husband's professional time. She feared he was cheating on her with female graduate assistants and colleagues. She memorized his teaching schedule and dogged his every movement around campus. She took to sitting up brooding late into the night while he slept and more than once suddenly started pummeling him when her thoughts turned darkest. Once, she broke off her verbal abuse of their only son and turned on Michael, who attempted to intervene, with a spiked high-heeled shoe.

He discussed this most recent incident the following day with one of us, apparently unaware that during the conversation the wound on his thigh from the . . .

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