Book Review: “Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence”

It is widely known that there are several things that can damage a relationship. While infidelity and even poor money management seem to be the most often declared as the impetus for relationships to deteriorate or end, abuse is a subject that is often unmentioned by either gender. Unless it is witnessed or physical signs are present, most victims are too ashamed to speak on this subject unless they are coerced.

Yet, abuse seems to be the most destructive and lasting to the victim and the children involved in the relationship. Whether physical or verbal abuse occurs, its long-standing effects permanently shape the lives of others and their future relationships.

“Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence” by Philip W. Cook explores the often unmentioned experience of the male victims of abuse.

 

 

 

In this tenth anniversary and second edition of his 1997 work, the author appropriately employs many studies from years ago to the present in nations across cultures and provides statistics that may surprise those who have not been abused themselves or observed it in their families or friendships. The studies suggest a higher prevalence of women as abusers than one might believe and that the incidence has been increasing in the past forty years. Mr. Cook does not cater to misogynists by vilifying women in any capacity. Instead, he presents the empirical findings of his continued investigation without sensationalism.

The author provides many first-hand narratives from male victims of abuse. Most of their experiences are absolutely shocking in the physical and psychological pain they endured while almost never receiving any assistance or validation. There is a common theme in their accounts that reveals a failing in western culture and that is that a male cannot be a victim of abuse from a female. Several of the narratives tell of times when the police were called to assist the assailed and they refused to intervene and often disregarded that man’s claims that his safety was in jeopardy. Horrifyingly there were times when the man would be arrested despite being more physically injured than the his female spouse or partner. The misperception that a man should be able to control his woman would often be cited. The victims’ mistreatment often continued further into the legal system when the courts minimized or ignored the abuse and no legal consequences were charged towards the female abusers and the men would end up suffering emotionally and financially.

Mr. Cook helps potential victims of abuse determine if they are abused and helps guide them to seek help specifically with an objective third party. The author provides salient recommendations regarding seeking therapy and support groups, working through the sensitive issue of children, and obtaining legal assistance specifically for male victims. Since many males blame themselves and suffer long-term deficits in their self-esteem, they are encouraged to recognize their positive qualities and to move forward with these qualities firmly in his mind while celebrating his freedom from abuse.

Mr. Cook explores the legal system’s approach towards male abuse and presents many appropriate recommendations to help improve a recognized double standard towards prosecution of the abuser and treatment for the abused. It is posited that there is poor communication across agencies towards this issue and this truly hinders the ability for a consistency for those abused to have a positive prognosis for healing. The author presents the need for more direct court involvement across its systems in order to reduce the cycle of violence. Mandating Batterer Intervention Programs, couples’ counseling, mediation, and judicial trainings are approaches that have been recognized as effective in some parts of the nation for assisting this specific population and their children. Some of the effective court models are explored and their effectiveness is presented and new approaches to reducing domestic violence are described.

The author recommends that female offenders need to have immediate and consistent consequences for their actions as males experience. All too often female abusers are not taken to their local jail to be charged or to spend the night considering the ramification of their actions. This step could cause the offender to recognize that her behavior has warranted punishment. Moreover, the act of securing a restraining order is asserted to occur much less often when the abuser is female. The author continues by presenting that the counseling most offered to male abuse victims does not have a licensed mental health professional leading therapy groups. More often the leaders of treatment are following a treatment model that does not take into consideration the influence of past family-related psychological issues or substance abuse. While people may be trained in implementing an effective treatment model, this is a tremendous shortcoming. It is generally recognized that people are shaped by their experiences as a child and that drugs and alcohol increase impulsivity and aggression while reducing responsibility for ones’ actions.  It should not be surprising that there was mentioning of one or both of these influences in most of the narratives provided by the male victims.

This reviewer highly recommends this book to any mental health provider, legal system professional, and any person affected by domestic violence.  The first-hand accounts provide not only the pain experienced by the victim, but illustrate the legal shortcomings across states and their systems. Mr. Cook states there have been improvements for the male victim of abuse since his first edition of this book. However, he asserts that there must be better understanding of each gender in order to better understand and help the male victims of abuse. Further research is needed to define the prevalence of male victims of domestic violence, its root causes, and to determine more effective models for treatment to end this often unspoken form of abuse.

 

— Mitchell von Gemmingen

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