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Monday, September 16, 2013

Psychologist: Some Domestic Abusers Want To Change — And Can

David Adams, co-founder and co-director of Emerge, has about three decades of experience working with perpetrators of domestic violence. (Emerge)

David Adams, co-founder and co-director of Emerge, has about three decades of experience working with perpetrators of domestic violence. (Emerge)

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Psychologist David Adams has made it his life’s work to help abusers change their violent behavior.

In 1977, Adams and a group of friends founded Emerge, the first education program in the United States for perpetrators of domestic violence.

“What we had in common was that we were friends of women who had started the first battered women’s hotlines or shelters in the Boston area, and they had been getting calls in their hotlines from men asking for help for themselves, and the women who were working for these battered women’s programs did not feel it was their mission to really help the abuser,” Adams told Here & Now.

“Why shouldn’t we expect the person who is causing the problem to take responsibility?”

So these 10 men, ranging from social workers to cab drivers, decided to take on the task and created a program to help the men who were willing to admit they had a problem abusing the women in their lives.

“We loved the idea — the whole idea of, why should the burden of change be on the victim, to disrupt her life and her children’s lives? Why shouldn’t we expect the person who is causing the problem to take responsibility?”

Some men who attend Emerge’s 40-week program are court-ordered to be there. However, “some of them are coming on their own accord and so, fortunately, I think it’s a good sign there’s a higher proportion of those men now too,” Adams said.

The men attend eight different classes that includes lessons such as “what is violence?”

Adams says the lessons help the men understand that even if they are not physically harming their partners, they may still be committing some form of domestic violence.

“Our definition of violence is anything that places someone in fear,” he said.

Adams says the long-term goal of the program is to help the men develop a sense of empathy. They may not get the most desired result the first time they go through the program, he said, but the seeds of change and understanding are planted.


  • David Adams, co-director of Emerge, the first abuser education program in the United States.



Well, we're going to spend a few minutes now on domestic violence. It's hard to believe that in the 1960s and '70s, scholarly studies blamed women for causing the abuse against them. Today there are shelters, support groups, crisis teams, new thinking about calculating how much a woman is at risk to try to prevent homicides and new thinking about treating abusers.

Yes, women can be abusers, but the preponderance are men, and many are now attending batterer intervention programs. The first one, Emerge, was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1977. It's led to over 1,500 across the country, and the thinking is that abusers can change.

David Adams is one of the founders and co-directors of Emerge, and David, you know, when there is a homicide, it's easy to see that someone is a batterer. But before that, it's harder. You say the reaction is usually gee, he seemed like such a nice guy.

DAVID ADAMS: That really reflects kind of the larger problem with abusers in general, which is the single I think most surprising characteristic is that they are not easy to identify, you know, that most abusers really lead a double life. And I would go so far as to say that many abusers are more likeable than their victims, and I think the reason is that they're charming, but also I think domestic violence affects victims more than it affects abusers.

So, you know, abusers don't lose their friends like victims do. They don't lose their jobs like victims do.

YOUNG: Because victims are keeping secrets and hiding bruises and...

ADAMS: That's right, they don't lose their sleep like victims do. You know, so they don't - they kind of just really go on their way. And because they externalize, you know, so much, they don't sort of suffer the consequences as much as victims do.

YOUNG: Well, I'm hearing you say victims are literally beaten down.

ADAMS: Yes, yeah.

YOUNG: Yeah, and so if you don't know why, they're not very appealing. Well, fascinating. Although you do say that about a quarter of the men you're talking about do fit a stereotype of hotheaded and...

ADAMS: That's right. I mean, there's just enough of those that that's what we keep looking for. So we keep looking for those guys, you know, those guys that come across as hotheads. And like I said, there's just enough that, you know, that it's perpetuated, the myth.

YOUNG: Some other factors, you say they just don't think that what they are doing is a problem, and if it's a problem, it's not theirs, it's caused by someone else.

ADAMS: That's right. They externalize. They blame, you know, others. They actually think of themselves as victims. So the average abuser, he thinks of himself as a victim, you know, and that's what makes him so convincing, I think, in manipulating other people because his head is full of things that have been done to him.

You know, part of what we try to do in our program is really kind of educate them about how their behavior actually impacts their victim. And yet in their minds, usually at the beginning it's all turned around. You know, one of the common complaints of many of our clients is she's never happy. You know, she's always complaining. You know, and we're trying to get them to see that, well, you know, the very things you're complaining about are actually the direct result of your abusive behavior.

YOUNG: So given that they don't even think that what they're doing is wrong, just like those early studies, when I read those, my blood ran cold, reading in the '60s and '70s these scholarly studies that pretty much concluded that the problem with battering was the women, that they were provoking it because they weren't happy, or they were irritating the men.

ADAMS: That's right.

YOUNG: That's just a few decades ago.

ADAMS: That's right, yeah, that's right.

YOUNG: Which means that the batterers today, in a lot of cases, grew up with battering that was "OK."

ADAMS: Yes, yes, in fact, you know, we have seen many sons of the men who originally - and we're actually starting to see the grandsons of some of the men who originally attended our program in the '70s.

YOUNG: Well, I want to hear more about that because they're attending even though their fathers and grandfathers attended. Presumably that would have broken a chain, but it didn't. So I want to hear about that. But what happens in the program, and how do people get in? You're still getting people who call you and ask to be let in.

ADAMS: So we were 10 men. What we had in common was that we were friends of women who had started the first battered women's hotlines or shelters in the Boston area. And they had been getting calls in their hotlines from men asking for help for themselves. And the women who were working for these battered women's programs didn't feel it was their mission to really help the abuser, and so they asked us, you know, as a group of men that they knew whether we would be interested in taking this on as an issue.

And we were social workers, some of us. There was one teacher. There was one community organizer. There was one cab driver. And so we really kind of loved the idea, the whole idea of why should the burden of change be on the victim to disrupt her life and her children's lives. Why shouldn't we expect the person who's causing the problem to take responsibility?

YOUNG: One answer might be that it's too risky. You know, if the woman physically moves and disrupts her life, at least she's safer. You know, people would say it's riskier to ask the man to change and believe that he does. So - but still you started thinking that he can change based on what?

ADAMS: Well, I mean, some of the men are court-ordered, and so there have been many changes in the laws, you know, since the '70s. And so the courts now, when somebody is convicted of domestic violence, they can and should be, as part of their probation agreement, be mandated into a program like ours. And so that's how a lot of the men come to us.

Some of them are voluntary. Some of them are actually coming on their own accord. And so fortunately, you know, and I think it's a good sign, there's a higher proportion of those men now, too.

YOUNG: Well, that's what you base your premise on, that more men are asking for help. And there are more success stories with these men. That's David Adams, one of the founders of Emerge, the first-in-the-country program for batterers. So, though, why can't you break the chain of battering from generation to generation? We're going to ask David that after a break.


Well, when we come back - or actually, I should say, Robin, other stories that we're following today on this very busy day, U.N. inspectors have completed their report on chemical weapons and the attack in Syria. They say they have clear and convincing evidence that gas was used on civilians, including children.

Also new poverty numbers about poverty in the United States come out tomorrow, but the number may not be the best way to measure how many people actually live in poverty in the country. These stories and others later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. But we will be back in a minute, HERE AND NOW.


YOUNG: It's HERE AND NOW, and if you've just joined us, welcome. We're keeping an eye on the news, including today's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. Several dead and injured there.

But at the moment, we're talking to David Adams about another violence: domestic violence. He's one of the founders and co-directors of Emerge, founded in 1977. It's one of the first batterer intervention programs in the country.

And David, you were just explaining that more and more men want to change and not be batterers. So how do you help them? When somebody's in the program, how does it work?

ADAMS: So, somebody comes - and it's a 40-week program, so it's quite a lengthy program - and there's eight different lessons. Now, one of the lessons is: What is violence? And what we're trying to do there is really kind of broaden their understanding of what violence is, you know.

YOUNG: How could you not know that a fist in a woman's face is violence?

ADAMS: Well, yeah, yes. So many of them will say that, but they say, oh, well, I've never done anything like that. So then our definition of violence is anything that places somebody in fear. I've never put my hands on my partner, some of the men will say, you know, but they've put holes in walls. You know, they've made threats. You know, so clearly, they've placed her in fear.

Also, we point out that once you have been violent towards somebody, you don't have to keep being violent to make that person fearful. I mean, many victims will say he - there's just a certain look, you know, that comes across, you know, that instantly places me in fear.

YOUNG: I'm hearing now the voices of men - as you say, this is the profile of the batterer - who, again, feel that they are victimized. What's wrong with a stare? And I'm sure you hear that in these lessons. What's the answer to that?

ADAMS: Right. Right. I mean, the long-term goal of our program is to actually have them develop empathy. And what we found over the years is that, you know, that is not something that you can sort of accomplish or even expect at the beginning stages, you know, because these are people that see themselves as victims. And so their heads are filled with their own grievances.

And so what really makes for a better sort of starting point is to help them to see how their behavior actually harms them. And so one of the exercises we do is called the effects of abuse on partners. And so we do kind of a brainstorm: What are some of the effects? Fear, distrust, anger, low self-esteem. And, interestingly, those are the very things that he is already complaining about: She doesn't trust me. She talks behind my back. You know, she's never happy, as I said before.

And we're saying, OK, so those things bother you. Guess what? Your behavior is causing those things.

YOUNG: And when you say just now, as you did, we say, there's feedback from the group.

ADAMS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

YOUNG: Is it other abusers who are calling someone on the...

ADAMS: Yes. I mean, so that at the beginning, it's more like a class. And so, really, the group leaders, you know, are kind of teaching the class, and we expect the men to participate in the exercises. In the second phase, however, we really do emphasize that. We actually teach the men how to provide constructive feedback to each other.

So here's an example. So a person in - he was in week nine. So it was his first session in the second stage of our program. He reported that his wife had done something stupid, and what his wife had done was she had ruined a tire on the car by driving against the curb. And he said, but instead of being violent, instead of hitting her, I just yelled at, screamed at her and called her a name. And then he said, the program's working for me.

OK. So in his mind, he was presenting this as some sort of progress. And this man, his name was Bob - that's not his real name, but I'll call him Bob. We decided to ask the other men, and we call this giving him a turn. Please give Bob feedback about, you know, this interaction he just reported.

And so this older man in the group, he's African-American. He was raised in the South. He had this kind of very gentlemanly quality and this very kind of interesting, formal way of talking, even though he kind of worked with his hands. He said: Robert, I have a question for you. May I inquire as to the cost of that tire? And Bob said $187.26, like he remembered to the penny how much that tire had cost.

And the other man said, Robert, I have another question. When you had your episode of domestic violence, did you obtain legal counsel? And Bob said yes. And the other man said: May I further inquire as to the cost of that legal counsel? Bob said $100 an hour. He said: And also may I find out how many hours did you employ your attorney? And he said 12 hours.

And the other man said: Let me understand this correctly. Your mistake cost $1,200. How much did you say that tire cost again? OK. So that he was really engaged in a very clever strategy. He was really kind of doing a cost analysis of Bob's mistakes compared to the wife's mistakes. And everybody, like you said, everybody agreed that his wife had made an honest mistake, you know, whereas Bob's mistakes weren't even honest mistakes. He had deliberately engaged in destructive behavior, which had cost a lot more money, you know, ultimately than this tire.

YOUNG: Well, why do men abuse? We understand it's not mental illness, although someone with a mental illness may be abusive. But it's a learned behavior. So they might - it might have been perpetrated on them, or they might have witnessed it growing up. But is there something else?

ADAMS: Yes. So, OK. So that when we say it's learned behavior, there's two aspects to that. One is, you know, if you observed it - and the research does show that if you grow up observing a father abusing a mother, for instance, or one parent abusing the other parent, you are more likely to actually learn that behavior. So that's one aspect of social learning, OK.

The other aspect, though, is positive reinforcement, so that you engage in behavior that actually creates benefits for yourself. She yells at you. You yell back. She stops yelling. OK. So that, you know, there's a kind of an underlying logic to this behavior. I think one of the myths about abusive behavior is that it's irrational behavior, when, in fact, there's a real logic to the behavior, because it actually gives power and control to the person who's being abusive.

YOUNG: Do you have to have - in addition to what sounds like some toughness in the program, forcing people to see their behavior, do you have to have some sympathy for them?

ADAMS: Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, because we're trying to teach respect, you know, as a basic value, you know, we have to model that ourselves, because if we're treating somebody with disrespect, they're not going to take it out on us. They're going to take it out on their partner. Right?

YOUNG: Yeah, and they're going to relearn it, that that's what someone in a position of power does. But are you hopeful? I mean, you have a good rate of people succeeding and not re-battering. But there are many people who do go out and re-batter. And, you know, battering isn't going away. So are you hopeful?

ADAMS: Well, yes. I mean, you know, because I've been doing this so long, I continually run into people, just my rounds, you know, that have been through the program. And interestingly, you know, many of them have come up and thanked me, you know, because they maybe not have gotten it the first time around, but over time, it really kind of - in the same way that, you know, battered women, it may take a while for her to kind of leave her abuser.

You know, the first time she goes to a program, it's not that that information the program has given her is wasted her, you know, it's - seeds have been planted. And it's the same thing with abusers. I think that they, at some point, are ready, you know, to kind of integrate this information that we've given them.

YOUNG: That's David Adams, one of the founders and co-directors of Emerge, the first abuser education program in the United States, and it's still ongoing and has spawned others across the country. David, thanks so much.

ADAMS: Thank you.

YOUNG: So, have you gone through a batterer intervention program? Do you know someone who has? Do you think abusers are rehabilitatable? Your thoughts always welcome at hereandnow.org or on Twitter. I'm @hereandnowrobin. Meghna is...


YOUNG: There you go, love to hear from you. And still to come @meghnaWBUR, we'll speak with an evacuee in flooded Colorado. That's after the news, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • First time caller

    Uncontrolled anger to the point of battering a “learned behavior”? With all the changes in psychological definitions over the past decade of what is “natural”,(most of them not surprisingly politically correct) I’m wondering why the psychologist doesn’t think some researcher might eventually find a gene somewhere that correllates with this behavior? Would it make any difference?

    In any event, this mish-mash of “therapy” the guest decribes could hardly be called psychology.

    • Maria O

      Anger runs from generation to generation, until the curse is broken by one member. Abusers commonly spew out their anger on those closest to them. Almost all abusive adults were abused as children and grew up with the intense pressure of unresolved anger. When their anger ignites, for whatever reason, everyone around them feels the explosion and falls victim to their blistering, lava-like anger. The question here”is it a sin for anyone to be angry? And the Answer is no. The initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way one may chose to express the anger determines whether or not it becomes sin. Psalm 4:4&

      Ephesians 4:26

      Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
      26 Be angry, but don’t sin[a] — don’t let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger;

    • Maria O

      Anger runs from generation to generation, until the curse is broken by one member. Abusers commonly spew out their anger on those closest to them. Almost all abusive adults were abused as children and grew up with the intense pressure of unresolved anger. When their anger ignites, for whatever reason, everyone around them feels the explosion and falls victim to their blistering, lava-like anger. The question here”is it a sin for anyone to be angry? And the Answer is no. The initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way one may chose to express the anger determines whether or not it becomes sin. Psalm 4:4&

      Ephesians 4:26

      Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
      26 Be angry, but don’t sin[a] — don’t let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger….

  • Vermont Mom

    Thank you for airing this under-reported and misunderstood story. I lived with a batterer for almost 20 years, and your guest described him perfectly: blaming others, particularly me, for his problems and completely lacking empathy. Mine was not the classic situation where he put me in the hospital. As your guest described, he was only physically violence once, and then I lived in fear – walking on eggshells most of the time. There was one incident on the way home from a family event when he was angry in the car (it turned out at me, but at the moment, I had no idea what he was angry about). His anger was not the shouting, overt kind, but rather seething and simmering. Our two young sons were in the back, and I had been napping. When I woke, I knew he was angry and was so terrified that i was ready to jump out of the car while it was moving at 65 mph. I can still feel the adrenal now as I write this.

    I luckily was able to leave this marriage but not without a huge cost, both financially and emotionally. I not only lost friends but most of my family. They didn’t see anything wrong with his behavior and pointed to me as the problem. They still invite him to family events, even though I have remarried and even though he turned the abuse on my younger son and nearly put him in the hospital. I was lucky to have an extended support system (therapist, attorney, domestic violence agency, supervised visitation center) to help me through this difficult part of my life, and I recognize how many women do not have those supports available to them.

    I would like to be so bold as to ask you to also cover the issue of the batterer as parent. Lundy Bancroft’s book of the same name is a great resource, as well as his website. One of the most difficult things I had to face was leaving a batterer only to be expected to send my two young sons back to him without any supervision. As I worked through my divorce with my batterer (it took four years), I watched as the violence against my sons escalated and there was very little I could do. (We were trying to do this without going through the court system, and to this day, I question the wisdom of that.) I truly believe that one of the reasons so many women don’t leave an abusive relationship is because they know they will be expected to send their children back to their abusers without any protection. While I know that leaving my abuser was the right thing in the long run, I often wonder if I had stayed, would I have spared my younger son the violence he experienced.

  • Maria O

    @“Our definition of violence is anything that places someone in fear.”
    Domestic violence is a very serious problem, however, professionals need to become wise to determine when the accuser is honest about it, or just taking vengeance on his/her partner, by accusing him/her of domestic violence, when in fact she/he could been obstructing the exit out in trying to control the situation. Sometimes many women ruin their partner’s future as a result of jealousy and spitefulness.

  • Stormcoaster

    Can men who abuse their wives, partners and children be rehabilitated? Yes, if they really want to says Sara Elinoff Acker in her new book, Unclenching Our Fists (Vanderbilt University Press). The book profiles 11 men who–with their counselors’ help–abandoned their violent ways. Among these success stories: a surgeon, a film maker and a window and door salesman.

    • Andrew_S

      Under the same argument, ‘Can (Wo)men who abuse their husbands, partners and children be rehabilitated? Yes ! or No, The answer is obviously No ! Since your mindset cannot fathom female abuse, it is a social privilege that does not legally exist or possibly the fault of their fathers,brothers or male partners. According to the CDC, female abuse of children has risen 40,000 gazzillion percent, but we will blame males for the problem. In your world view can a female abuse at all ? According to the DOJ, if any figures or Data maligns the female abusee paradigm, they will promptly send their accounting re educators to align the figures with the worst case scenario. So are we really ever going to get to the truth of a human problem or are we in the money game of following the best strategy for earning an income. At least one quarter of this nations wealth is spent on professional moochers,who earn a living pushing around paper and statistics until they hit the right numbers. Typically like the feminist argument and probably your point, you get a captive group, in this case 11 criminally convicted felons in a prison environment and give them time out of their cell for some interactive behavioral assessments and then call it a study which we apply to the general population. We will not nor do we need to do an apples for apples study, since our funding was federally sourced and would be withdrawn or omitted if it did not conclude the politically correct answer. I think just as I did, we should collect empirical evidence in the real world. I walked for 3 miles over 3 months in many directions looking for abusers, I mostly found humans being stupid. I wish I could invent sophisticated studies, that would earn me federal brownie dollars that result in a book and feminist accolades for being politically correct.

  • Bells201

    I wish some state would take this issue much more serious. Some people think that abuse is only done by men – not so , CDC has studies that show abuse is equal among men and woman. Then there is the other side such as in Massachusetts where woman can go into a court and say they are in fear for their lives (with out any sort of proof) and the judge will grant them a restraining order. Worse yet – many lawyers are telling their female clients to first get a restraining order , then file for divorce , this gives the woman control over the marital assets and custody of the children.

    is it a problem , yes , can our society deal with it , not right now , we prefer to blame someone and not solve the underlying issues,. Where there are issues of questionable abuse mediation and therapy are in order and I would guess that in many cases both parties contribute to the problem. We also need to let people get mad at each other and yell at each other – let’s face it we are all human and we get angry.

  • Tim Shepard

    This feminist Propagandizer should be ignored by everyone. Spreading disinformation is not helping matters, the Domestic Violence Industry is out of control and needs to be reined in.

  • Shades of Gray

    My mother was not hit but yelled at, and was clearly afraid of my father while I was growing up. In my mid-twenties my father learned to control his temper and no longer abused anyone. He was not rewarded for good behavior. My mother became verbally abusive towards him. That abuse was not transitory. That would be understandable given what she’d been through. But she spent the last couple decades that my parents were together making my father feel badly about himself no matter what he did. He was visibly afraid of her for those decades. So who is to blame here? On the Left we have have feminist dogma that assigns blame to men. On the right we have Fundamentalist Christianity, which still has a strong misogynist under current that blames women. Meanwhile, in the middle, real people, who wish to accept responsibility for their actions are caught on a merry go round. It is very much like our political system in which you do not admit to wrong doing but constantly attack the other side. It doesn’t fix anything. It is all about who has the power. Both sides are to blame. I lived through it. The blame game is not a reality based system. To categorically assign blame to one side or the other is absurd. Every relationship needs to be judged upon its own merits. There are cases where the man IS clearly out of control and abusive. There are cases where the man and the woman are both out of control and are abusing each other. There are cases where the woman is out of control and abusing the man. And relationships can morph between those three. This version of reality makes self-righteousness problematic. It is my feeling that to struggle with a reality, as complex as this is, is morally and intellectually challenging. Easier to choose sides and throw insults. But that won’t change anything on a fundamental level. Children will still grow up in discord. As a child of that kind of relationship I longed deeply for my parents to visibly love each other. They never really did. They were connected to each other through mutual anger and contempt. That bond was as strong as genuine love. That’s sad. I wish that those who get to pronounce what is “real” (as in the pronouncements I heard, here, on the radio today) would have something to say about the reality that I lived through. What I hear, from both the left, and the right, is a sanitized simplified version of reality.

  • Andrew_S

    95% of Domestic violence laws are the result of factitious disorders, true victims of Domestic violence are a means to serve the elective bureaucratic franchise. Mainly derived from a slew of former speculative cottage industries that seek to control more federal and bureaucratic taxpayer incentive models with taxpayer gravy. Since the premise is based on a gender specific paradigm, the result is in compliance with the federal mandate of reducing by whatever means possible population fertility. The problem of course is those who provide for a solid and autonomous future are in effect contributing to a eugenics program or in this case a pogram of soft population controls effective from post WWII global mandates. Individual autonomy like any state control mechanism seeks to commandeer financial controls leading to greater state dependence.

    The sad thing is Americans really don’t care about tomorrow or the long term effects of policy, while practitioners of such localized programs by state and county corporate operations benefit by whacked out ideas of how to deal with interpersonal relationships and power conflicts.

    People if left without mass experiments generally take care of their own business and often summarily.The state only needs to co opt and franchise elective bodies purporting to represent the peoples best interests with a marketing budget of unlimited secular proportions to win the day.

    The state or voting franchise need only control the influential part of an argument and economically like the Hegelian dialect of feminism. Secular control is handed over to probably the most useful intelligent idiots created by human kind. Like all weapons of social mass destruction, the most powerful comes from penned arguments of the intellectually bereft of common sense. So if you take up a sword just as you take up a pen and subvert statistics.to satisfy our masters bidding, do you also join the misery you create or enjoy the many fold financial benefits of treachery to your clients.

    I still cannot fathom the argument from whence such speculative debates come from. The original argument was when only 25% of domestic violence shelter victims are actual victims what do the other 75% qualify for. We should ask Erin Pizzy, ‘Many of the alleged victims are far worse than the factitious disorders that qualifies their victim hood status.’ The real problem of course is economic, where are the extensive dollar costs going to come from. With less than 27% of the economy now left to private corporations who compete with regional government services. Additionally the cost of bureaucracy makes it incredibly expensive to employ people who are capable of sustaining an undomesticated work regime to serve the great bureaucracy I say we continue quantitatively easing the problem, Ben will print the dollars for you.

    In the meanwhile let us head down the path of getting people only to eat with rubber forks and sodomize their children for a federal dollar

  • Tenacity

    BS feminazi propaganda. Women murder & abuse children at an incredibly higher rate than men abuse women. Where are the classes for them?

  • ofddvpo

    Really? I believe its 85% men vs. 15% of women that batter, that’s including same sex battering. Yes, women can and are abusive but not even close to the level of men….seriously????

  • Suntalker

    Why did you change the title for this piece from the original title online earlier today? I wanted to use this in a class that I teach. The original title of this article “violence is anything that places someone in fear” was perfect for our Human Sexualities Across Cultures class. The new title distracts from the focus on the socially constructed aspects of understandings of violence and abuse (which are so wonderfully laid out in the opening to this piece). The new picture that you’ve put up also distracts, in my opinion from the opening point of the piece, which so nicely pointed out how in the 70s, even scholarly studies “blamed the victim” while today we are taken aback by “blame the victim” terminology and messages, YET, the picture you posted with the link to this report (the owrds on the whiteboard) might give the impression that this program IS about blaming the victim :-(

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Hello, I’m the web producer for Here & Now. The quote about violence is still present in the piece, and both the transcript and audio of the full interview are available on this page, so I hope that will help you to use it in your class. The earlier headline was published inadvertently during a training session. The photo was added because it pictures the guest teaching a class, so it seemed quite appropriate. Thanks for your comment and I hope this explanation helps. Best, Rachel Rohr

  • ldkat

    I am going to go on a limb here and say that many abusers (male or female) possibly fit the definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a recognized entity that is not quite disease but can be very disabling. Symptoms include: Believing that you are better than others, Expecting constant praise and admiration, Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings, Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans, Taking advantage of others, Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior, Trouble keeping healthy relationships…these are just some of the traits described by the Mayo Medical Clinic. The problem with abusers who fit this profile is that they are VERY unlikely to change because a personality disorder is basically something you are born with. I suppose an intensive intervention might help such an abuser develop something akin to empathy and recognize that their behavior is socially unacceptable, but it would be a tough road. If you are with someone who fits that profile it might be best to just move on.

    • FedUp

      I think this is the most helpful post on this page thus far, coming from a recent victim of physical abuse (12-12-13). I’m trying to decide whether out not to get an OFP today. Why should my children have to leave their home again because he can’t keep his hands to himself! He’s been talking about getting help for 3 years. I’m the loyal type and put others before myself. Right now I’m feeling like my body just got hit by a truck. His first major attack, but many verbal and “minor” physical attacks…I kept forgiving him because there weren’t any marks. Now I ha ave 10 and our children were home and involved. I’m searching online for the statistics for rehabilitating abusers. So many issues with my husband equals my doubts. I hate this!!!

  • Loving partner of male victim

    This sounds like an excellent program, and I’m glad it exists. I would like to hear at least a mention on the radio of the fact that women can be abusers too. I have three relatives who have been abused by women close to them – her lesbian partner, his wife, and in the most devastating instance, his mother. It’s hard for men to admit to being abused and to seek help. More public recognition that it happens would help victims of female abuse to seek help.

  • changedguy

    Thanks for the airing on this subject. It took me awhile – and an actual separation – to see that I truly was an abuser. Like Adams says, it is the effects of the language and behavior that makes it abuse. At first, I kept score, counting the things she and I said and making the case that we were both guilty. But eventually I learned that athough she said many angry things to me, unlike her, I was never, ever afraid. My self esteem or value as a person was never destroyed, I was not intimidated to silence, I did not become quiet because my sense of safety became more important than communicating, Only I, not she, did these kind of things.

    Since my awakening I have done extensive therapies of several kinds, a full year intervention program, become an active member of MEVAC ( Men Ending Verbal Abuse and Control) an online men only recovery program, as well as extensive reading. It is a long journey to reform our deep seeded behaviors but as Adams says, it IS possible. One of the saddest things about this problem is that so many people write off abusers as completely incorrigable. There are so few resources for us men who realize the errors of our ways and are searching for where to get the help we need. There’s so much more to say on the subject, but for now I’ll just say thanks again.

  • Greg Pressley


    I have heard your conversation on NPR’s , Here and Now and became sick to my stomach. Whether you meant it or not it sounded to me the only possible abuser in a marriage could be the male . As far as I m concerned nothing could be farther from the truth. Now maybe I took some of your comments out of context but really I mean if there ‘s one thing I absolutely did was look at that woman. When I think of the lies how she stole from the household taunted me with our child me and cheated yes all I was left with was to look at her.

    When I think of the times we when to court and other women who worked in the court told me” that I needed to get away from her because she means me no good or the way I simply wanted to see my daughter with in the the court ordered and her attempts to have me charged with kidnapping while taunting me are for you real …really…are you serious. I could go on but you want to hear the funny thing I was still charged with being the abuser. If you don’t know that women can simply call the police an point the finger an to jail you go. .What do you know about it?

    PS I did seek counseling she told me that I was not the problem . Now when I see her I see nothing standing there.

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