The Reader‘s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
The headline of Kitry Krause’s 1992 feature pretty much says it all: “Men Who Beat Women.” In this case, Krause focused on two particular men who beat women: John and Eric (both pseudonyms). Both men had found their way to Dr. Lawrence Dugo’s support group after they’d been arrested for assaulting their wives.
It would be easy to dismiss these men as monsters, but nothing about this story is easy. It’s apparent that Krause spent a lot of time with both John and Eric. Her extended accounts of their lives read like case studies. John grew up in an abusive household with a mother who was probably mentally ill; as an adult, he and his wife both had their own psychological issues, exacerbated by drinking. Eric, on the other hand, was a teacher, a churchgoer, a peace activist, and even a member of a men’s group, where he learned about gender roles. But even though he recognized that there was a shift in the dynamic of their marriage after she became the breadwinner and he stayed home with their kids, this didn’t stop him from rage and violence.
One of the many remarkable things about this story is the way Krause resists the temptation to judge the men. Their actions, of course, say plenty, but Krause’s objective isn’t to condemn them but to understand them. That’s also where Dugo comes in.
Dugo says the men who come to him are genuinely blind to the pain they have caused their wives or partners. “Because 90 percent of these men actually view themselves as victims. They think that the woman has pushed them to this and hurt them. They’ve become so aware that something’s done to them. For instance, typically they’ll say, ‘Yes, I pushed my wife and threw her down on the bed—because she did blah, blah, blah.’ And then they’ll proceed to tell me what she did that provoked them to do that—and will entirely miss the fact that what they did will have had a tremendous impact on her. To be able to successfully work with these men, you have to be able to help them understand how a woman feels, what it’s like to be intimidated and live in fear.”
This article was written more than 25 years ago, but none of the underlying issues have changed very much.