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Understanding the experience of the man who assaults his wife Hampson, Douglas Arthur 1991

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UNDERSTANDING THE EXPERIENCE OF THE MAN WHO ASSAULTS HIS WIFE by DOUGLAS ARTHUR HAMPSON B.A., T r i n i t y Western University, 1981 M.Div., Regent College, 1986 THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Counselling Psychology We accept t h i s t hesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA October 1991 © Doug Hampson, 1991 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of O o o t o s ^ s ^ i N j C H P ^ ^ O ^ v j Q ^ y The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date c 7 c J - o W . r l o « r DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT Three men who assaulted t h e i r wives p a r t i c i p a t e d i n semi-structured, in-depth interviews i n an attempt to understand the experience that accompanied each man's "assaultive" decision. The study assumes that spouse abuse can be best understood from an eco l o g i c a l point of view which, i t has been argued, warrants a hermeneutical approach to research (Young & C o l l i n , 1988). The study focuses on the description and understanding of s p e c i f i c l i f e experiences of the participants through the application and development of int e r p r e t i v e categories or themes. Three themes that are common to a l l the participants are i d e n t i f i e d and discussed. It was found that: a l l the partic i p a n t s experienced misunderstanding between themselves and t h e i r partner before the assaultive s i t u a t i o n ; a l l the participants experienced a sense of emotional d i s t r e s s p r i o r to and at moments during the assault; a l l the partic i p a n t s experienced a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n i n the abuse which they were displaying. The results of t h i s research highlight the c e n t r a l i t y of empathic understanding i n the study and treatment of domestic violence. i i i TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT i i TABLE OF CONTENTS i i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v i CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1 The Problem 5 The Literature 5 Methodological Problems 11 An Alternative 15 The Question 20 C l a r i f i c a t i o n Of Terminology 21 Assumptions 22 CHAPTER TWO METHOD 2 6 Participants 26 Procedure 28 The Interview 28 Analysis 31 The Role of the Narratives i n the Analysis 35 The Role of the Police Reports in the Analysis 35 The Adequacy of the Interpretation 36 The Participant's Response to the Narrative 36 i v Delimitation Of The Study 3 7 E t h i c a l Considerations 3 7 CHAPTER THREE RESULTS 3 9 The Narratives 3 9 Sam's Story 3 9 Paul's Story 45 Fred's Story 5 0 Common Themes 5 6 The Experience of Being Misunderstood 56 The Experience of Emotional Duress P r i o r to and at Moments During the Assault 7 2 The Experience of Being J u s t i f i e d i n the Abuse which they were Displaying 8 0 Summary 88 CHAPTER FOUR DISCUSSION -. 8 9 Discussion of Results 8 9 Hermeneutics Stresses Understanding not Explanation 8 9 Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: The Nexus of Experience and the Tendency to J u s t i f y 90 V Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: The Tendency to Explain, Minimize, and Deny 91 Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: His Need for Power and Control 93 Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: His Tendency to be Evasive and Uncooperative 94 Discussion i n Light of Current Research 96 Implications for Practise 97 Applications of Present Research 97 Domestic Violence as a Human Issue 99 Need for Mutual Understanding 100 Implications for Research 103 Some Personal Reflections 104 Limitations of Present Research 105 REFERENCES 106 APPENDIX A (Letter of i n i t i a l contact) 113 APPENDIX B (Consent Form) 116 APPENDIX C (Letter of i n i t i a l contact from Agency) 119 v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I thank my thesis supervisor, Dr. Richard Young, for his wise counsel and willingness to confer with me on a moment's notice. I thank the other members of my committee, Dr. Larry Cochran and Dr. Kathryn McCannell, for t h e i r academic expertise and valued input. I thank my wife, B i r g i t , and my children, Stephanie and Nathan, for t h e i r continued support and patience as "daddy worked on his t h e s i s " . I thank my mother and father for t h e i r encouragement throughout my educational pilgrimage. Last, but ce r t a i n l y not least, I thank my God for giving me the strength and endurance needed to complete t h i s project. 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Family violence i s a grim r e a l i t y of our society. For decades North Americans have been vaguely aware of the phenomenon of family violence but i t was not u n t i l 1980 that Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz (1980) shocked the American public by d i s c l o s i n g that approximately 50% of a l l marriages i n America suffer from violence i n one form or another. Wife battering, which i s a p a r t i c u l a r expression of family violence, has existed for centuries but has only recently been addressed. Since Straus et a l . estimated that over 3.8% of American husbands "assaulted" t h e i r wives (a s t a t i s t i c that i s even more outrageous when we consider that i t does not include the times that American husbands have pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or thrown things at t h e i r spouses!), wife abuse has received an increasing amount of media attention and has become a subject of scholarly inve s t i g a t i o n i n several academic d i s c i p l i n e s . This attention which was i n i t i a t e d and maintained through the women's movement has helped a f f e c t the norms and values of our society and ultimately encouraged changes i n laws and public awareness (Davidovich, 1990). By 1985 there was enough research on abused women to debunk many of the p r e v a i l i n g myths which existed within our society (Gondolf, 1985) and by 1986 two new i n t e r d i s c i p l i n a r y journals—The Journal of Family Violence and Violence and  V i c t i m s — h a d been dedicated exclusively to the study of family 2 violence. However, i n spite of t h i s recent p u b l i c i t y and in v e s t i g a t i o n there i s s t i l l much to learn about wife abuse, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n r e l a t i o n to understanding the male abuser. Male batterers have not been studied as systematically as have been the victims of wife abuse, consequently l i t t l e i s known about the man who assaults his wife (Levine, 1986; Subotnik, 1988). This lack of knowledge can be attributed to the fact that males who batter tend to be uncooperative and evasive (Scher, 1981; Star, 1980);. i t could be a res u l t of the researcher's tendency to neglect t h i s d i f f i c u l t f i e l d of study (Fleming, 1979; Martin, 1976); i t could be a r e f l e c t i o n of the feminist concern to change the s o c i o p o l i t i c a l structure and consequently overlook the i n d i v i d u a l needs of the abusive male (Gondolf, 1985); or i t could be at t r i b u t e d to the methodological problems associated with family violence research i n general (Arias & Beach, 1987; Gondolf, 1988). Whatever the cause, t h i s lack of extensive or systematic investigation often translates into f a u l t y assumptions about, and less than e f f e c t i v e programs for, battering males (Gondolf, 1987; Jennings, 1987). In the attempt to understand the abusive male, the researcher needs to appreciate the complexity of, and allow for the problems associated with, the study of t h i s unfortunate s o c i a l phenomenon. The act of abuse i s a human expression and thus contains a meaningful component i n the sense that i t i s an action that has meaning (Bleicher, 1980). In order to understand 3 the expressed meaning behind domestic abuse the researcher needs to apply a research method that i s capable of such a task. Such a method needs to provide a basis for addressing s o c i a l problems and needs to be concerned with the comprehensive goal of developing and promoting s o c i a l knowledge (Rosenwald, 1988). It i s with t h i s challenge i n mind that I propose to address the problem of domestic abuse from a hermeneutical perspective. From t h i s perspective, the researcher attempts to provide a meaningful in t e r p r e t a t i o n of an individual's account (through the medium of a story, narrative or text) about a p a r t i c u l a r event or phenomenon. Hermeneutics assumes that a fact i s a product of and a contributing factor to "the context of explanation i n which i t i s situated" (Steele, 1986, p. 259). The task of hermeneutics i s to c l a r i f y meaning; to make the obscure p l a i n and the unclear clear (Bauman, 1978). Hermeneutics can be contrasted to other methods that are based on the p r i n c i p l e s of empiricism and/or rationalism and focus on the task of "explaining" phenomena (Bauman, 1978; Parker, 1985). I have selected the hermeneutical approach to inquiry because I believe that i t allows for the complexity of human experience, takes into account the context (s) i n which an i n d i v i d u a l functions and seeks to understand an individual's behavior from the experience of that i n d i v i d u a l . This approach to inquiry works on the p r i n c i p l e that when an i n d i v i d u a l speaks he/she communicates meaning; when he/she l i s t e n s he/she receives meaning (Ramm, 1980). 4 Hermeneutics c lar i f i e s the meaning behind an action and thereby preserves and extends communication in an attempt to anticipate and project better ways of l i v ing (Bleicher, 1980) . Whereas the empir ical -s tat i s t ica l method of inquiry has been c r i t i c i z e d in i t s treatment of abusive males because i t often re l ies heavily upon "obscure" self-reports and/or other less than adequate methods of measurement (Arias & Beach, 1987; Gondolf, 1988), the hermeneutical approach may involve a more in-depth interaction between the researcher and interviewee (Wiersma, 1988). This method penetrates the superficial statements or "press release" that individuals often make during i n i t i a l interviews and uncovers the larger contextual meanings of an individual's statements (Wiersma, 1988). I assume that this interviewee-centered interaction is more l ike ly to encourage honesty and disclosure than a purely empirical approach seeking scores for s tat i s t ics or more formal phenomenological approaches. Furthermore, since the "abusive male" has been characterized as being uncooperative and inexpressive, a nonthreatening interview may be more productive in obtaining an accurate account of the participant's experience than a "cold, formal" information gathering approach (Borg & Gal l , 1983; Ptacek, 1988) . The hermeneutical approach to inquiry attempts to comprehend l i f e practices through an interpretative process and has been employed by researchers in many discipl ines as an alternative method of study. These researchers maintain that the 5 hermeneutical approach which focuses on the int e r p r e t a t i o n of human action i s an appropriate and perhaps preferred method of study for certa i n types of research. They believe that hermeneutics i s a function of human understanding that helps bridge the gap between the interpreter and the material to be interpreted (Ramm, 1980). Young and C o l l i n (1988) apply the p r i n c i p l e s of hermeneutics to t h e i r study of career development in order to better understand i t s dynamics. Sloan (1986) uses a very s i m i l a r approach to gain a better understanding of the decision-making process. Parker (1985) applies hermeneutics in the f i e l d of psychology and the s o c i a l sciences because i t allows for the complexity and ambiguity of human behavior; i n essence hermeneutics assumes that i n d i v i d u a l consciousness i s a proper subject of study. In t h i s study I w i l l focus on the consciousness of the male batterer i n an attempt to better understand the dilemma of wife assault. The Problem The Literature Research on men who have abused t h e i r wives has slowly evolved over the past 25 years with the majority of the studies being conducted i n the 1980's. Tolman and Bennett (1990) compiled an excellent survey of the research l i t e r a t u r e on c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of men who batter. Early studies on wife abuse were exploratory i n nature as researchers attempted to discover how pervasive the practise of wife assault was (Levinger, 1966; 6 Wolfgang, 1958). Once i t was recognized that wife assault was a problem, researchers then became interested i n understanding what i t i s that makes the "abuser" abuse (Schultz, 1960; Snell, Rosenwald & Rokey, 1964). This search for the cause of abuse has taken three main directions with each d i r e c t i o n being heavily influenced by the assumptions that the researchers carry with them into t h e i r research (Jennings, 1987; Pagelow, 1984). One group of researchers i d e n t i f y the s o c i e t a l structure (patriarchy) as the major reason for wife abuse i n our society (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Schechter, 1982). They suggest that the problem of wife assault l i e s i n both gender and class-based s o c i a l inequality. According to these s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s , men have t r a d i t i o n a l l y held power over women and children and violence has been employed as a means to keep control (Jennings, 1987). They maintain that t r a d i t i o n a l ideology perpetuates a male dominant order that guides, shapes and determines behavior inside, as well as outside, the family (Pagelow, 1981). Consequently, they believe that domestic violence needs to be viewed s t r i c t l y from a feminist perspective i n order to a t t a i n a r i c h e r base of knowledge (Bogard, 1990). Consistent with t h i s feminist perspective, these researchers maintain that the assaultive male, l i k e a l l males, i s dominated by s o c i a l l y learned sex roles and i s preoccupied with the need for control and power (Jennings, 1987). They att r i b u t e the increase i n wife assault over the past few decades to the fact that external controls over 7 the family have been loosening and consequently, men have been lashing out i n an e f f o r t to control t h e i r families (Denzin, 1984; Levine, 1986). Because of t h e i r b e l i e f that violence i s perpetuated by a "patri a r c h a l s o c i e t a l structure", these researchers focus on the need for p o l i t i c a l change and the r e d i s t r i b u t i o n of power in order to address s o c i a l issues such as wife abuse (Hole & Levine, 1973; Ptacek, 1988). Their primary inte r e s t i s to address the needs of women and children (Gondolf, 1985). Consequently, they argue that s o c i a l p o l i c y geared toward providing better education and employment opportunities would a l l e v i a t e the problem of wife abuse more than would psychological counselling for those involved i n the abusive s i t u a t i o n (Smith, 1990). A second group of researchers consider wife abuse to be one form of intrafamily violence. These researchers maintain that violence i s not purely a male or female issue but rather both genders are victims and offenders when i t comes to the display of domestic violence i n our society (Gelles, 1987; Straus et a l . , 1980). Within t h i s framework i t i s believed that violence i s learned from those around us (Bandura, 1973) and passed on intergenerationally (Gelles, 1979) because we l i v e i n v i o l e n t a culture (Straus et a l . , 1980). In other words, children learn v i o l e n t behavior when they see violence acted out by t h e i r parents or s i g n i f i c a n t others (Straus et a l . , 1980). Consequently, the male as well as the female can be a perpetuator 8 or a victim of domestic violence and both can suffer from what Steinmetz (1987) c a l l s the "chronic battered syndrome", a condition that i s characterized by "powerlessness, intense fear on the part of the victim and repeated intense battering by the perpetrator" (p. 743). Although these s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s believe that violence i s a s o c i a l l y learned behavior, they disagree with the f i r s t group of researchers as to where the focus should be i n addressing family violence (Pagelow, 1981). Their studies focus on how violence i s a human or family issue as well as a gender issue. They assume that both genders have a propensity towards violence and that violence i s not necessarily r e f l e c t i v e of a p a t r i a r c h a l system (McNeely & Mann, 1990). Thus, researchers who share t h i s orientation are concerned with the psychological and s o c i o l o g i c a l correlates of abuse, which factors appear to t r i g g e r abusive behavior, and what type of programs would be most e f f e c t i v e i n addressing the needs of the abusive i n d i v i d u a l (Fleming, 1979/ Gondolf, 1987; Lewis, 1987; Martin, 1976; Walker, 1979). Lastly, there i s a group of researchers who perceive spouse abuse to be the resu l t of psychological factors often related to inner stress, resentment and anxiety (Schultz, 1960). These researchers have found personality disorders i n both the male "abuser" and female "victim" (Shainess, 1977; Snell et a l , 1964). When Coates, Leong and Lindsey (cited i n Tolman & Bennet, 1990) administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 9 (MMPI; Hathaway & McKinley, 1951) to a group of male convicted "abusers", they found that these men had psychopathic tendencies. Hastings and Hamberger (1986) also found that the male abuser had psychopathic tendencies when they applied the Mill o n C l i n i c a l M u l t i a x i a l Inventory (MCMI; Millon, 1983) to court ordered men who batter. Shuerger and Reigle (1988) found that men who battered t h e i r wives tended to be more anxious, depressed as well as display more schizoid tendencies than did the non abuser. These studies suggest that men who abuse t h e i r spouses are more i n c l i n e d toward psychopathic tendencies than the non vio l e n t male. This t h i r d group of researchers see the "abusive male" as a type of psychopath who i s by and large dependent upon his wife to f u l f i l his emotional needs (Jennings, 1987; Roy, 1982) and more i n c l i n e d to develop stress in intimate relationships (Hamberger & Hastings, 1986). Elbow (1977) i d e n t i f i e d four types of abuse syndromes that develop i n batterers with each syndrome centering on a d i f f e r e n t emotional need. These researchers believe that the "abusive male" i s psychologically d i f f e r e n t from the general population. Consequently, they are interested i n uncovering psychological disorders common to a l l abusers and then focusing on how therapy can help the male who batters deal with some of his underlying psychological needs (Elbow, 1977; Faulk, 1974; Schultz, 1960; Shuerger & Reigle, 1988). 10 Generally speaking, research findings on "abusive males" has been varied and, at times, confusing. For example, men who batter have been characterized as having a va r i e t y of personality t r a i t s . They have been described as having a low ego-strength (Waldo, 1987), high need for power (Dutton & Strachan, 1987), acute dependency c o n f l i c t s (Davidson, 1978), fear of intimacy (Hofeller, 1983), emotional inexpressiveness (Ganley & Harris, 1978), and spouse-specific unassertiveness (Dutton & Strachan, 1987; Rosenbaum & O'Leary, 1981). Waldo (1987) described "abusive males" as having a number of c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s that can be c l a s s i f i e d into three main categories: the degree to which they accept t h e i r problem, the d i f f i c u l t y that they have with personal adjustment, and the dependency needs they have i n t h e i r relationships with t h e i r spouses. Other studies describe the male who abuses as being a rebel, a loner, and a pessimist (Allen, Calsyn, Fehrenbach, & Benton, 1989), tending towards being schizoidal/borderline, n a r c i s s i s t i c / a n t i s o c i a l , and dependent/compulsive (Hamberger & Hastings, 1986), not as masculine as the "nonabuser" (Rosenbaum, 1986), intensely s t r e s s f u l (Farrington, 1986), and a "chemical abuser" (Roberts, 1987). To complicate matters studies do not always agree on the p r o f i l e of an "abusive male". He i s at times described as being r e l i g i o u s (Dobash & Dobash, 1979) whereas i n other studies he i s considered to be i r r e l i g i o u s (Resick & Reese, 1987). Some researchers claim that men who batter have a high need to control 11 others (Hofeller, 1983), some dispute t h i s claim (Allen et a l . , 1989) and s t i l l others take a middle ground (Subotnik, 1988) . Dobash and Dobash (1979) consider the "abuser" to be a t y p i c a l family man while Roberts (1987) and Stets and Straus (1989) f i n d the "abusive male" to be one who pa r t i c i p a t e s i n cohabitation rather than marriage. Because of the complex and often ambiguous nature of the research, more and more researchers are maintaining that there i s no unique "personality type" or " p r o f i l e " for the male who batters (Geffner & Rosenbaum, 1990) but rather there are many factors, s o c i a l l y and psychologically, and a wide variety of personal, s o c i a l , s i t u a t i o n a l and environmental conditions, which contribute to spouse abuse (Faulk, 1974; Frieze, McCreanor, & Shomo, 1980; Steinfeld, 1986). Methodological Problems Much of the research on abusive males i s l i m i t e d because of cer t a i n methodological problems. For example, some researchers have the tendency to view spouse abuse s t r i c t l y from a female perspective and thereby devalue the male's experience of the abuse (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Steinmetz, 1987). This tendency to overlook the male's perspective l i m i t s our understanding of spouse abuse as the male's experience i s often very d i f f e r e n t from the female's perspective (Niemi, 1974). Steinmetz (1987) maintains that a balanced view of domestic violence needs to include the point of view of both partners i n an abusive s i t u a t i o n . 12 Another methodological concern involves the v a l i d i t y of the various methods and instruments employed to measure the degree and extent of abuse. If the nature or extent of the abuse cannot be properly measured or defined, then the findings of those studies would not be v a l i d . The C o n f l i c t Tactics scale (Straus, 1979), an instrument that i s commonly used i n the gathering of data, has been c r i t i c i z e d i n i t s a b i l i t y to measure wife abuse e f f e c t i v e l y (Gondolf, 1988; Straus et a l . , 1980; Tolman, 1989). Although there have been studies which attempt to improve the effectiveness of the C o n f l i c t Tactics scale (Barling, O'Leary, J o u r i l e s , Vivian, & MacEwen, 1987), there i s s t i l l no instrument which can accurately assess battering behavior (Tolman, 1989). Self-reports which are the most commonly practised method for assessing spouse abuse and are frequently employed i n personality tests i n order to determine which personality t r a i t s are common to the "abusive" male, are also inaccurate methods of measurement. Borg and G a l l (1983) note that s e l f - r e p o r t s generally tend to be inaccurate as they often do not measure what they intend to measure. The v a l i d i t y of a s e l f - r e p o r t depends upon the accuracy an individual's self-perception and his or her willingness to express those perceptions (Borg & G a l l , 1983). Because the abusive male tends to be uncooperative and inexpressive (Scher, 1981; Star, 1980), the s e l f - r e p o r t becomes even more of a problem when i t i s applied to the man who has abused h i s wife. Arias and Beach (1987) maintain that when male 13 abusers are administered questionnaires, they are l i k e l y to l i e about the extent of t h e i r abuse because of s o c i a l d e s i r a b i l i t y . The accuracy of sel f - r e p o r t increases as the rapport between the interviewee and interviewer i s strengthened (Borg & G a l l , 1983). Wiersma (1988) believes that i t i s possible to get past the di s t o r t i o n s of self-reports by employing an in t e r p r e t a t i v e process that involves both the interviewer and interviewee and involves continued r e f l e c t i o n , reconstruction, and rei n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the interviewee's statements. A t h i r d methodological problem which i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of many of the studies on abusive males i s the selection process. Seldom are abusive males selected randomly as researchers often do not have access to records that are representative of the general population (Steinmetz, 1987). As a re s u l t there i s a tendency for researchers to select a l l t h e i r p a r t i c i p a n t s from one agency and then proceed to compare t h e i r findings with normative data taken from the general population (Allen et a l . 1989). When researching abusive men, i t i s d i f f i c u l t to conduct in-depth, rigorous, empirical studies that are based on representative samples of the general population (Gondolf & Hanneken, 1987). A fourth concern involves the issue of how the data are interpreted once they are col l e c t e d . Steinmetz (1987) notes that researchers often make a "quantum leap" when in t e r p r e t i n g data on domestic violence: 14 thus we are led to believe that variables such as alcohol or drug abuse, lack of education, unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, and unemployment "cause" domestic violence, (p. 731) Steinmetz concludes that these causal interpretations are inaccurate because the researcher i s confounding c o r r e l a t i o n and causation. S i m i l a r l y , certain attitudes are often ascribed to the man who abuses his spouse purely because there seems to be a l i n k between the attitude and the behavior. Neidig, Friedman, and C o l l i n s (1986) investigated the v a l i d i t y of the studies that a t t r i b u t e c e r t a i n a t t i t u d i n a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s to the abusive male and concluded that many of the a t t i t u d i n a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of abusive men reported i n the c l i n i c a l l i t e r a t u r e may not be a s i g n i f i c a n t component in the etiology of spouse abuse. These methodological problems which are often associated with research on men who abuse help explain the ambiguity and c o n f l i c t i n g r e s u l t s often found i n that research. In t h e i r recent review of quantitative research on abusive males, Tolman and Bennett (1990) conclude that studies on male batterers indicate that batterers are heterogeneous i n nature and the d i v e r s i t y of t h e i r characters needs to be emphasized i n the development of treatment programs. They further suggest that future research needs to "... l i n k i n d i v i d u a l and interpersonal variables to an analysis of the broader s o c i a l context..." (p. I l l ) before a productive understanding of female abuse can be 15 attained. Jennings (1987) who also noted the complex and ambiguous nature of spouse abuse, recognized the problems associated with t h i s type of research. Although he acknowledged the value of many of the quantitative studies on wife assault, he suggested that there i s a need to reexamine the framework from which we view abusive men. An Alternative Jennings (1987) recognized that the standard empirical-s t a t i s t i c a l approach to the study of abusive men may be l i m i t e d to the extent that i t can add to our understanding of the abusive male. Dukes (1984) notes that the e m p i r i c a l - s t a t i s t i c a l , or quantitative, approach to research helps us to explain a phenomenon but does not necessarily help us to further our understanding of that phenomenon. In other words, i f we lack a clear grasp of the structure of a meaningful experience, a quantitative methodology w i l l not necessarily give us the insight that we are looking for. This insight, according to Everett (1988), i s not necessarily found i n the "state of the objective world", the focus of the quantitative study, but rather i n "the c r u c i a l data [which] reside i n the head of the i n d i v i d u a l " (p. 135). Everett maintains that the researcher needs to understand the i n d i v i d u a l ' s perception of the world or, i n s l i g h t l y d i f f e r e n t terms, the individual's construction of r e a l i t y . Bliecher (1980) states that hermeneutics "does not aim at objective knowledge through the use of methodical procedures but 16 at the e x p l i c a t i o n and phenomenological description of human Dasein [existence] i n i t s temporality and h i s t o r i c a l i t y " (p. 2). Consequently, according to hermeneutical theory, the researcher needs to become acquainted with the abuser's l i f e - c o n t e x t ( l i f e -situation) and become aware of how the i n d i v i d u a l constructs his private world. S t e i n f e l d (1989) believes that spouse abuse needs to be addressed from an ecological perspective whereby many psychosocial factors are considered. This eco l o g i c a l or contextual metaphor takes into account the r e c i p r o c a l i n t e r a c t i o n between ind i v i d u a l s and the systems of which they are a part (Young & C o l l i n , 1988) and allows for the complexity and ambiguity associated with understanding the behavior of abusive men. Ptacek (1988) maintains that the q u a l i t a t i v e testimony of the abusive male presents a riche r perspective and provides a more powerful c r i t i q u e of wife abuse than can be obtained from most t r a d i t i o n a l quantitative studies. In t h i s study I have researched the l i f e - s i t u a t i o n of men who have assaulted t h e i r wives. I was p a r t i c u l a r l y interested i n understanding how the male who has assaulted his wife experienced the assault. The method of research that I have employed i n t h i s study i s the hermeneutical method of inquiry. A hermeneutical methodology offers the researcher an al t e r n a t i v e form of inquiry that can be free of the l i m i t a t i o n s imposed by the quantitative approach to research (Rosenwald, 17 1988). It gets past the s u p e r f i c i a l s e l f reports described by Arias and Beach (1987) as i t allows more of a focus on the symbolic i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the partici p a n t ' s l i f e s t o r i e s (Wiersma, 1988). The hermeneutical method of inquiry which offers a q u a l i t a t i v e framework which seeks to "see" the l o g i c or meaning behind an experience as opposed to discovering causal relationships or patterns of corr e l a t i o n , can add to the scope of the human sciences (Dukes, 1974) and broaden our understanding of the abusive male. Gondolf and Hanneken (1987) recognized the need to study abuse from an alte r n a t i v e framework when they employed a phenomenological method of inquiry to the study of abusive men. They interviewed twelve men who had successfully completed a men's counselling program i n an attempt to understand what factors contributed to treatment of the abusive condition. The interviews which lasted from 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours each, were " i n depth" and consisted of 115 open-ended questions. The researchers tape-recorded and transcribed the interviews and then on the basis of these interviews drew conclusions as to what helped these men to stop abusing. Gondolf and Hanneken (1987) were interested i n understanding the re l a t i o n s h i p between the counselling program and the c l i e n t ' s subsequent nonabusive behavior, thus they employed a method of inquiry that would help c l a r i f y that r e l a t i o n s h i p . The method that these researchers employed i s si m i l a r to the hermeneutical method, the method which 18 t h i s s t u d y e m p l o y s . T h e d i s t i n c t i v e n e s s o f t h e h e r m e n e u t i c a l m e t h o d i s i n t h e m a n n e r t h a t t h e r e s e a r c h e r i n t e r p r e t s t h e " t e x t " . W h e r e a s G o n d o l f a n d H a n n e k e n (1987) w e r e p r i m a r i l y c o n c e r n e d w i t h t h e f a c t o r s w h i c h a r e c o m m o n t o a l l t h e i n t e r v i e w e e s , t h e h e r m e n e u t i c a l i n q u i r e r i s c o n c e r n e d w i t h t h e i n t r a - i n d i v i d u a l a n a l y s i s o f e a c h i n t e r v i e w a s w e l l a s t h a t w h i c h i s c o m m o n t o a l l i n d i v i d u a l s . I t i s o n l y a f t e r e a c h m a n ' s i n t e r v i e w h a s b e e n c o m p l e t e l y a n a l y z e d t h a t e m e r g i n g t h e m e s a r e i d e n t i f i e d , r e f i n e d , a n d r e i n t e r p r e t e d ( C o l l i n & Y o u n g , 1988). P t a c e k (1988) i d e n t i f i e d c e r t a i n t h e m e s a n d p a t t e r n s t h a t c h a r a c t e r i z e d 18 v i o l e n t m a l e s b a s e d o n o n e t w o - h o u r i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r v i e w . L i k e G o n d o l f a n d H a n n e k e n , P t a c e k r e c o g n i z e d t h e p o t e n t i a l o f i n d e p t h p e r s o n a l i n t e r v i e w s i n t h e s t u d y o f w i f e a b u s e . P t a c e k ' s i n t e r v i e w s w e r e s e m i s t r u c t u r e d a n d o p e n - e n d e d a s h i s i n t e n t w a s t o p r o v i d e a n u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e b a t t e r e r ' s p e r s p e c t i v e o n w i f e a s s a u l t f r o m t h e c o n t e x t o f a f e m i n i s t a n a l y s i s o f w o m e n ' s o p p r e s s i o n . T h e p a r t i c u l a r b a t t e r e r s w h o P t a c e k s t u d i e d w e r e m e n w h o h a d c o m p l e t e d a c o u n s e l l i n g p r o g r a m f o r b a t t e r e r s . T h e p r o g r a m a d v o c a t e d a c o n f r o n t a t i o n a l t y p e o f c o u n s e l l i n g a n d h a d a f e m i n i s t p h i l o s o p h i c a l b e n t . T h e c o n c l u s i o n s o f P t a c e k ' s s t u d y w e r e c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e s t a t e d b i a s e s o f b o t h t h e r e s e a r c h e r a n d t h e p r o g r a m . A l t h o u g h P t a c e k w a s i n t e r e s t e d i n o b t a i n i n g a n a r r a t i v e w h i c h r e f l e c t e d t h e b a t t e r e r s u n i q u e p e r s p e c t i v e , i t i s d i f f i c u l t t o d e t e r m i n e t h e 19 methodological underpinnings of his research since he did not include t h i s information i n his study. Denzin (1984) applied an in t e r p r e t i v e phenomenology to the study of domestic violence as i t was his intent to understand how violence within the home was "organized, f e l t and experienced" by the indi v i d u a l s who l i v e i n that violence (p. 488). In order to gain t h i s understanding he analyzed the experiences of perpetrators and victims of family violence. His method was di f f e r e n t yet complementary to the h i s t o r i c a l , survey and interview orientated studies of previous investigators as he focused on the l i v e d experience associated with domestic violence. Denzin's central thesis was that emotionality l i e s at the core of vio l e n t conduct. He outlined seven processes which constitute a phenomenological structure common to the individuals who are involved i n an abusive s i t u a t i o n . A f t e r employing a s o c i a l phenomenological method of inquiry, Denzin suggests that a structure of negative experience builds up i n the emotional outlooks of family members, which trap them i n a way that eventually leads to violence. Denzin's work i s comprehensive as he focuses upon the emotionality of, and the i n t e r a c t i o n between, the members of a family who are experiencing domestic violence. The hermeneutical method of inquiry as applied to abusive males assumes that the abuser's l i f e experience cannot be separated from the abuser's behavior. In other words, i n order to understand the abusive behavior of a p a r t i c u l a r i n d i v i d u a l 20 f u l l y , the researcher needs to understand the l i f e experience of that i n d i v i d u a l . The emphasis i s not on c l a s s i f y i n g the parti c i p a n t according to certain "personality t r a i t s " or a p a r t i c u l a r "personality p r o f i l e " , but rather the researcher attempts to enter into the abuser's "world". The meanings associated with the phenomenon of wife assault are woven and f i l t e r e d through the l i v e s of in t e r a c t i n g i n d i v i d u a l s (Denzin, 1984). By i t s nature, quantitative research as applied to abusive men attempts to c l a s s i f y the male who has battered his spouse and thereby distinguishes him from the male who has not battered so that e f f e c t i v e programs can be developed that can help control battering (Tolman & Bennett, 1990). The main problem with t h i s type of research, as with studies on most other kinds of so c i o c u l t u r a l phenomena, i s that the in t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p s among the variables studied have been found to be generally weak (Harris, 1983). The hermeneutical approach i s d i s t i n c t i n i t s attempts to understand the male who has abused his wife primarily from the experience of the male p a r t i c i p a n t . The Question It i s d i f f i c u l t to understand the mind of a man who abuses his spouse. Why would a man h i t a woman, es p e c i a l l y a woman that he "loves"? In an attempt to answer t h i s complex question (a question that most "abusive males" are unable to answer) t r a d i t i o n a l research has tended to focus on s p e c i f i c theories or p a r t i c u l a r t r a i t s which would apply uniquely to the "abusive 21 male". In doing so, these researchers have been able to suggest a variety of s p e c i f i c variables which may contribute to wife abuse but they have frequently f a i l e d to acknowledge the complexity involved with understanding the male who chooses to batter his wife. It has been suggested by S t e i n f e l d (1989) that spouse abuse needs to be addressed from an eco l o g i c a l perspective; a perspective that accounts for the m u l t i p l i c i t y of variables associated with wife abuse. According to t h i s perspective the researcher needs to consider the thought process of the i n d i v i d u a l who abuses his spouse, his goals, his aspirations and dreams, his fears and disappointments, his experiences of the past, his plans for the future, and his o v e r a l l l i f e - s i t u a t i o n i n an attempt to understand his action. In other words the researcher who has an eco l o g i c a l in t e r e s t needs to ponder the l i f e - c o n t e x t s from which the male who has battered functions. It i s with t h i s ecological in t e r e s t that I pose my research question. I want to understand what men experienced when they battered t h e i r wives therefore, the question which I address i n t h i s study i s "How does the male who has battered his wife experience his abusive behavior i n r e l a t i o n to his life-experience as disclosed i n a given narrative"? C l a r i f i c a t i o n Of Terminology The pa r t i c i pan t s are those individuals who have volunteered to t e l l t h e i r story about t h e i r abusive behavior. At times I ref e r to these indiv i d u a l s as co-researchers as they worked 22 together with me i n the t e l l i n g and in t e r p r e t i n g of t h e i r s t o r i e s . Abusive behavior i s defined broadly as any behavior that i s harmful, injurious, or offensive but the p a r t i c u l a r abusive behavior referred to i n t h i s study w i l l be harmful physical acts expressed toward a participant's wife or female partner. The term partner refers to the wife or, where applicable, common-law wife of the pa r t i c i p a n t s . L i f e - s i t u a t i o n (life-experience, life-context) i s the p a r t i c u l a r context which gives r i s e to a p a r t i c u l a r action or thought. This involves a l l of the experiences of the ind i v i d u a l , past and present, which have impact on how the in d i v i d u a l see his world, as well as the individual's intentions, desires, and wishes. A narrative i s a meaning structure that organizes events and human actions into a whole, thereby a t t r i b u t i n g s i g n i f i c a n c e to in d i v i d u a l actions and events according to t h e i r e f f e c t on the whole (Polkinghorne, 1988). Assumptions It i s my assumption that men who batter do so because of a combination of factors that are rooted i n the experiences of the p a r t i c u l a r batterer. We can understand these experiences when we understand how the batterer attributes meaning to the world around him. This meaning i s made i n what Kegan (1982) refers to as the "zone of mediation": 23 that most human of "regions" between an event and a reaction to i t - - the place where the event i s p r i v a t e l y composed, made sense of, the place were i t ac t u a l l y becomes an event for that person, (p. 2) As I begin to understand t h i s zone of mediation, or " s e l f " , I can then begin to understand what an indiv i d u a l ' s experiences mean to him. Therefore, I believe that i f I want to understand how an in d i v i d u a l experiences his abusive behavior, I need to understand how that i n d i v i d u a l makes personal sense of his abusive actions. I recognize the complex and ambiguous nature of an indi v i d u a l ' s "personality". I believe that an ind i v i d u a l ' s personality i s a process that i s constantly evolving and i s the dynamic that gives r i s e to the " s e l f " (Kegan, 1982). It i s "that temporal order of human existence whose story begins with b i r t h , has as i t s middle the episodes of a lifespan, and ends with death... i t i s a meaning rather than a substance or a thing" (Polkinghorne, 1988). Consequently, every i n d i v i d u a l i s di f f e r e n t i n that he or she has a unique personality whereby personal events are configured into a h i s t o r i c a l unity (Polkinghorne, 1988). In other words, although a p a r t i c u l a r i n d i v i d u a l who has struck his spouse may be characterized as having "low-self esteem", i t i s conceivable, i n my opinion, that another i n d i v i d u a l who has engaged i n si m i l a r behavior may have a di f f e r e n t view of himself. Each i n d i v i d u a l who batters i s unique 24 and can best be understood i n the context of his p a r t i c u l a r l i f e -s i t u a t i o n . I believe that i t i s possible to understand an individual's personality through the creation and analysis of a narrative which r e f l e c t s the individual's l i f e - s i t u a t i o n . Sloan (1986) maintains that an ind i v i d u a l ' s character may be demonstrated and e f f e c t i v e l y studied through a person's actions and/or through narrative accounts about l i f e experiences. The p a r t i c u l a r action that I am interested i n i s the act of abuse and the l i f e experiences that I focus on are those experiences which are associated with the abuse. Consequently, i t i s the task of the researcher to interact with the participant for the purpose of creating a narrative. The narrative r e f l e c t s the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s personality as i t relates to the abusive s i t u a t i o n . I believe that battering i s a learned a c t i v i t y . I believe that an i n d i v i d u a l makes a decision to batter even though he may not be immediately aware of why he made that decision. I believe that decisions have meanings, that i s they s t r i v e to f u l f i l l intentions, desires and wishes. These meanings can be best understood i n the l i f e - c o n t e x t s i n which they occur. The i n d i v i d u a l who has "chosen" to display abusive behavior may not be immediately aware of the meaning behind his decision to abuse. Through the interview process, I believe that the pa r t i c i p a n t may gain a better understanding of the meaning that he at t r i b u t e d to the abusive s i t u a t i o n . Furthermore, i t i s my b e l i e f that as I 25 e x p l o r e , u n d e r s t a n d a n d i n t e r p r e t t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s , w i t h i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e a b u s i v e s i t u a t i o n , I w i l l g a i n a b e t t e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e p h e n o m e n o n o f w i f e a s s a u l t . I b e l i e v e t h a t t h e a b u s i v e m a l e m a y f e e l v e r y u n c o m f o r t a b l e t a l k i n g a b o u t h i s a b u s e a n d m a y n o t r e a d i l y d i s c l o s e i n f o r m a t i o n w h i c h m a k e s h i m f e e l u n c o m f o r t a b l e . I a s s u m e t h a t a s I i n t e r a c t w i t h t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s I w i l l b e a b l e t o g a i n a b e t t e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e i r p r i v a t e , e x p e r i e n t i a l w o r l d ( m e a n i n g m a k i n g s y s t e m ) a n d t h e r e f o r e g a i n a m e a n i n g f u l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e . I n o r d e r t o c o m e t o f u l l e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e p a r t i c i p a n t ' s a b u s i v e b e h a v i o r , I b e l i e v e t h a t i t i s n e c e s s a r y t o f o c u s o n t h e e x p l i c a t i o n a n d p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e l i f e - e x p e r i e n c e s w h i c h a c c o m p a n i e d t h e a b u s e . 26 CHAPTER 2 METHOD I t i s my a s s u m p t i o n t h a t as t h e p r i n c i p l e s o f h e r m e n e u t i c s a r e a p p l i e d t o t h e s t u d y o f w i f e abuse, I as a r e s e a r c h e r w i l l be a b l e t o b e t t e r u n d e r s t a n d t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f t h e men t h a t accompany t h i s t y p e o f v i o l e n c e . I t was my t a s k t o u n d e r s t a n d and i n t e r p r e t t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f t h e male who had abused h i s p a r t n e r f o r t h e purpose of c o n t r i b u t i n g t o our o v e r a l l u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f w i f e abuse. In o r d e r t o a c c o m p l i s h t h i s purpose i t was n e c e s s a r y t o s e l e c t p a r t i c i p a n t s who were w i l l i n g t o t e l l t h e i r s t o r y about t h e abuse, t o a l l o w t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s t o c r e a t e a n a r r a t i v e which r e f l e c t e d t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f t h e abuse t h a t t h e y were i n v o l v e d i n , and t o a n a l y z e and i n t e r p r e t t h e n a r r a t i v e i n a manner c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e p r i n c i p l e s o f h e r m e n e u t i c a l i n q u i r y . P a r t i c i p a n t s I t has been s u g g e s t e d t h a t men who have b a t t e r e d t h e i r wives t e n d t o deny and/or m i n i m i z e t h e i r a b u s i v e b e h a v i o r e s p e c i a l l y when t h e y f e e l t h r e a t e n e d or a l i e n a t e d (Scher, 1981; S t a r , 1980) . R e c o g n i z i n g t h a t t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s s t u d y may have t h i s t e n dency, i t was my i n t e n t i o n t o s e l e c t o n l y t h o s e p a r t i c i p a n t s who a r e s e r v i n g a p r o b a t i o n a r y s e n t e n c e f o r t h e i r a s s a u l t and who g i v e t h e i r consent f o r t h e r e s e a r c h e r t o c o n f e r w i t h t h e i r p r o b a t i o n o f f i c e r i n o r d e r t o s u b s t a n t i a t e t h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s s u r r o u n d i n g t h e a s s a u l t . 27 In order to procure participants for t h i s study, the Administrator of the Abbotsford Salvation Army sent a covering l e t t e r (Appendix 3), along with an information l e t t e r (Appendix 1), to a number of possible part i c i p a n t s a l l of whom I had come in contact with through my work with that agency, and I posted information l e t t e r s at two l o c a l Probation O f f i c e s . I selected the f i r s t p a r t i c i p a n t s who volunteered for the project and met the above c r i t e r i o n . Two of the part i c i p a n t s volunteered through the probation o f f i c e and one participant volunteered through the community agency. The three men who p a r t i c i p a t e d i n t h i s study were white, middle-class, Anglo-Canadians who p h y s i c a l l y abused t h e i r wives. Sam i s 40 years old, has a high school diploma and has been employed with the same company for eight years. Paul who i s 43 years old, i s currently unemployed although he too has a grade 12 education. Fred i s 25 years old, dropped out of school aft e r he f i n i s h e d grade 10 and now works i n construction. A l l three p a r t i c i p a n t s l i v e in a rural/suburbian area of Fraser Valley. Age, race and r e l i g i o n were not factors i n the s e l e c t i o n process as I was interested i n understanding i n t r a - i n d i v i d u a l experiences regardless of age, race or creed. While I recognize that the p a r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study are c u l t u r a l l y s i m ilar, I recognize that individuals from d i f f e r e n t s o c i a l or c u l t u r a l settings may a t t r i b u t e d i f f e r e n t meaning to t h e i r experience of abuse. I did select participants who could communicate i n the 28 English language since i t was c r u c i a l that I understood what the in d i v i d u a l s were attempting to communicate. Procedure The intent of t h i s research project was to understand the experiences of the men who have abused t h e i r partners. In order to accomplish t h i s goal a narrative which r e f l e c t e d that experience of the participants was created through an interview process. Each interview was transcribed, sorted and analyzed so that an accurate, meaningful interpretation could be derived from the text. The Interview The interviews, which were semistructured and intensive, were conducted i n a comfortable setting. Each p a r t i c i p a n t p a r t i c i p a t e d i n at least three interviews and each interview involved between one and two hours of dialogue. The interviews were scheduled at times that were convenient for both the p a r t i c i p a n t and researcher. Most of the interviews were conducted i n the early evening. A l l interviews were audio-taped. Before the interviews began, I introduced myself and then b r i e f e d each of the participants on the nature and purpose of the study. Any questions that the participants had about the research, or any concerns about the interview, were answered at t h i s time. I also gave the p a r t i c i p a n t s permission to ask questions or raise concerns about the project at any time. I then informed them of t h e i r right and freedom to withdraw from 29 the project at any time. I had each pa r t i c i p a n t sign a consent form (Appendix 2) allowing me to conduct the proposed research involving the participant as a co-researcher. I have kept the i d e n t i t y of the p a r t i c i p a n t s , t h e i r spouses and other individuals implicated within the participants "story" s t r i c t l y c o n f i d e n t i a l within the prescribed l i m i t s of B r i t i s h Columbia Law. It was the my intent to have the p a r t i c i p a n t disclose his perspective on how the abuse relates to what he was experiencing at the time of the abuse and how the abuse relates to his understanding of himself. The f i r s t phase of the interview focused on b u i l d i n g a sense of rapport between the interviewer and the p a r t i c i p a n t . This was accomplished as the researcher applied the empathy building s k i l l s outlined i n Egan (1990) and ensured that the participant was relaxed and comfortable. The next phase of the interview consisted of a series of open-ended questions that encouraged the participant to r e f l e c t upon his own experiences. During t h i s interview stage, the p a r t i c i p a n t was i n v i t e d to t e l l his story about the abuse. It was my intent to have the p a r t i c i p a n t communicate a text which r e f l e c t e d his p a r t i c u l a r meaning-making system with a s p e c i a l i n t e r e s t i n what meaning he found i n his abusive actions. The l a s t stage of the interview was a time for debriefing where the interviewer answered any of the participant's questions which had stemmed from the interview. A second and t h i r d interview were conducted in order to c l a r i f y and/or expand the text which was transcribed 30 from the f i r s t interview. The goal of the interview process was to create a text which r e f l e c t e d the intended or expressed meaning of the partici p a n t ' s l i f e experience (Kvale, 1983) therefore the exact number of interviews, and the time involved i n each interview, were determined by par t i c i p a n t and researcher. The questions which I asked were formulated and phrased i n such a manner as to explore the participant's experience i n r e l a t i o n to the abusive s i t u a t i o n . In order to understand these experiences I asked some questions such as "from your perspective what things led up to the abuse"; "what was going through your mind during the abusive act?"; "what motivated the abuse?"; "how does the abuse f i t i n with the other aspects of you l i f e ? " . I encouraged each participant to describe the events which happened before, during and after the assault, and to explain how he was thinking and f e e l i n g during t h i s portion of his l i f e . I also encouraged the partic i p a n t s to ta l k about the things that they valued as well as people or events that had an impact on them. For example I asked: "what are some of the memories that stand out for you when you look back on your past?"; "what would you l i k e to be doing i n f i v e years from now?"; "what do you l i k e to do i n your spare time?"; "how does who you are as a person relate to your abusive actions towards your wife?" The purpose behind the interview was to allow the participant to t e l l his story about the abuse, a story that r e f l e c t e d how that pa r t i c i p a n t a t t r i b u t e d meaning to l i f e - s i t u a t i o n s around him. I audio taped, 31 transcribed, analyzed and interpreted the pa r t i c i p a n t ' s story i n an attempt to understand the meaning associated with the abusive s i t u a t i o n . These transcribed interviews became the texts from which I studied i n order to uncover the themes that were common to each p a r t i c i p a n t . It was my goal to discover how the part i c i p a n t ' s story " f i t together" and what gave that p a r t i c u l a r story meaning. My role was l i k e that of a newspaper reporter who i s afte r a story or a h i s t o r i a n who i s getting to know a p a r t i c u l a r person or event (Young & C o l l i n , 1988) . The text which I received i s a verbal narrative. I was concerned with what my subject said but I kept a s u f f i c i e n t distance so that I could bring some new understanding to the text (Sullivan, 1984) . I was l i k e a spectator who was searching for a broader, deeper understanding of an events meaning (Cochran, 1988). The new understanding which was derived from the participant's narrative i s consistent with the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s interpretation and i s being presented as one possible i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the narrative. I have followed the process of hermeneutic inquiry as outlined by Young and C o l l i n (1988) and interpret the text according to the assumptions which I have outlined above. Analysis Once I had obtained a story that r e f l e c t e d the partici p a n t ' s experience of the assaultive s i t u a t i o n , I then proceeded to interpret that story. This process of int e r p r e t a t i o n involved a 32 careful analysis of the narrative as discussed i n C o l l i n and Young (1988) : The analysis should add more to understanding than a common sense inte r p r e t a t i o n can o f f e r . Our in t e r p r e t a t i o n should be conceived of as an argument, recognizing that alternative interpretations are possible. It should be consistent with the actors' interpretations and recognize the s o c i a l construction of the actors' si t u a t i o n , with the p o s s i b i l i t y of change i n that s i t u a t i o n through the actors' agency, (p. 192) The goal of t h i s analysis was to uncover the common theme or "plot" i n the data (Polkinghorne, 1988). The plot, which could consist of a number of sub-plots, gives meaning to the various st o r i e s contained i n the participant's narrative; i t weaves together seemingly unrelated threads of information into a schematic whole. The plot betrays how the part i c i p a n t organizes the event within his world or, more s p e c i f i c a l l y , how the in d i v i d u a l constructs meaning for himself (Kegan, 1982). In order to uncover the plot of each narrative, I analyzed the data according to a three-stage process. F i r s t l y , I paraphrased the partici p a n t ' s statements so that the central message of each statement was communicated c l e a r l y and concisely. I then extracted and indexed the central message or "core i d e n t i f y i n g u n i t " of each statement or group of statements by following a set of rules as outlined by Alexander (1988). 3 3 Alexander, who maintained that the uniqueness of a single personality could be determined by focusing on those units of personality structure that are most meaningful, defined these core identifying units as a "number of consecutive sentences which form an entity through shared content" (p. 278). A particular unit may contain a completed thought with an introduction, an action and an outcome or i t may be fragmented with a distorted story l ine . The th ird stage of the interpretative process involved the analysis of these core units whereby I attended to the dynamic s imi lar i t ies found in differing contexts. During this phase of analysis the identifying units were blended together in the formation of a narrative plot which, in turn, gave significance and meaning to the core units (Polkinghorne, 1988). The plot emerged as I moved between the data and the emerging description of the plot . As such, the plot structure was continually revised in order to "best f i t" the new information communicated through a new event. This hermeneutical path to understanding entailed a creative re-formation and re-construction of the narrative whereby the parts or individual events of the story were interpreted in l ight of the narrative's plot and the plot was informed and formulated by the individual events. This process assumed that the participant was an "active and organically developing subject" and the words that he spoke could best be interpreted in the context of his total l i f e experience 34 (Bleicher, 1980, p. 14). Although t h i s method of inter p r e t a t i o n i s an i n f i n i t e process, i t ends i n practise when a sensible, v a l i d , unitary meaning which i s free from inner contradiction i s derived from the text ( C o l l i n , 1985; Kvale, 1983). In order to allow the narrative's plot to emerge naturally from the par t i c i p a n t ' s story, I followed the phases and le v e l s of int e r p r e t a t i o n as outlined by Kvale (1983). Kvale's mode of understanding assumes that there i s a continuum between the description and interpretation of the par t i c i p a n t ' s l i f e - w o r l d . This continuum contains six possible phases: the par t i c i p a n t ' s spontaneous description of his own experience (without i n t e r p r e t i v e comments); the participant's s e l f discovery as the res u l t of his own spontaneous description; the researcher's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i n dialogue with the part i c i p a n t during the interview; the researcher's interpretation of the completed and transcribed text by the researcher alone; the researcher gives the interpretations back to the participant i n another interview whereby the participant has an opportunity to correct and elaborate upon the researcher's interpretation; the par t i c i p a n t gains new insights as he acts upon his s o c i a l environment between interviews. These phases of interpretation do not necessarily presuppose each other l o g i c a l l y or chronologically but rather they provide a framework upon which to construct a v a l i d , meaningful narrative p l o t . 3 5 The Role of the Narratives i n the Analysis During the analysis the transcribed interviews were the "texts" from which the themes or plots emerged. The themes from each p a r t i c i p a n t ' s "text" were then compared and the common themes were noted. Although the texts are the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s narrative, they are exhaustive as they include every word that was spoken during the interview. The abridged narrative, which i s a smoother version of the o r i g i n a l interviews, and which I refer to as the narrative in t h i s study, evolved as a r e s u l t of the analysis. After the themes of each pa r t i c i p a n t ' s story were uncovered these shorter, more concise, narratives were created from the o r i g i n a l data. The abridged narratives r e f l e c t the same themes as the o r i g i n a l interviews but are presented i n a more focused manner. These narratives, which were negotiated with each of the respective participants, represent a possible i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the participant's experiences. Although other studies of the same text or data may produce interpretations from a s l i g h t l y d i f f e r e n t perspective, I suggest that the alternate interpretations would confirm the c r e d i b i l i t y of the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n presented i n t h i s study. The Role of the Police Reports in the Analysis The facts of the assault, as described by the participants, were presented to the probation o f f i c e r for v e r i f i c a t i o n as outlined i n the consent form. Before the interviews began, I informed each of the p a r t i c i p a n t s that I had f u l l knowledge of 36 facts as presented i n the p o l i c e report, and I t o l d them that I would v e r i f y t h e i r description of assault with the respective probation o f f i c e r . Each person talked openly about the assault and his description of the offense was consistent with the respective p o l i c e reports. The Adequacy of the Interpretation I believe that the interpretation of the narratives as presented i n t h i s study are representative of the p a r t i c i p a n t s and consequently meaningful to our understanding of wife assault. In order to obtain a meaningful narrative, I s e n s i t i v e l y and e f f e c t i v e l y gathered the data by including the p a r t i c i p a n t s as co-researchers i n the project. The r e l a t i o n s h i p between the p a r t i c i p a n t s and me was characterized by p a r t i c i p a t i o n and empathy. The reasonableness and p r o b a b i l i t y of the interpretations presented i n t h i s study was confirmed by each of the p a r t i c i p a n t s . In the l a s t chapter of t h i s study I suggest ways i n which the results of t h i s study can further our knowledge and treatment of domestic violence. The Participant's Response to the Narrative The narrative was the participant's story, therefore he was a judge as to how accurate the narrative was and how v a l i d or meaningful my int e r p r e t a t i o n was. The p a r t i c i p a n t s played a central role i n the creation of the narrative as I dialogued with them throughout the process of presenting and c l a r i f y i n g the narrative. When I presented the narrative to each of the 37 p a r t i c i p a n t s each agreed that the narrative presented i n t h i s research project represented them. Furthermore, a l l of the p a r t i c i p a n t s expressed that i t f e l t good to have someone l i s t e n to them, and they believed that they had gained some understanding about themselves through the interview process. Delimitation Of The Study Since the focus of my research i s on the experience of males who have abused t h e i r wives, I have conducted between three and six hours of i n depth interviews with three male p a r t i c i p a n t s . I have not attempted to generalize the findings of my study to the general population, a procedure which i s more applicable to a quantitative method of inquiry than a hermeneutical approach (Smith, 1989). It has been my intention to understand how the abusive actions displayed by the part i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study were experienced by those same par t i c i p a n t s . In other words, i t has been my intent to understand the abusive actions of the pa r t i c i p a n t s i n the context of t h e i r own experience rather than to explain why men i n general decide to abuse t h e i r spouses. In t h i s study I have made some statements about abuse as abuse applies to my part i c i p a n t s and I have suggested some possible areas for further research. E t h i c a l Considerations A l l information that the participants disclosed to the interviewer (researcher) was considered s t r i c t l y c o n f i d e n t i a l except i n the case the law would dictate otherwise ( c h i l d abuse). 38 The audio taped interview and the transcribed text did not disclose the re a l name of the part i c i p a n t or any other ind i v i d u a l s i d e n t i f i e d i n the partic i p a n t s story; the audio tape was erased a f t e r the tape was transcribed by the researcher; the data were kept i n a secure location under lock and key. At the conclusion of each interview the participant was debriefed so that any concerns that arose during the interview process could be addressed. It was during these debriefing sessions that the e t h i c a l concerns suggested by Ptacek (1988) were addressed. Before t h i s research project was conducted a proposal of the project was submitted to, and approved by, the University of B r i t i s h Columbia Behavioral Sciences Screening Committee for research involving human par t i c i p a n t s . 39 CHAPTER 3 RESULTS This chapter i s divided into two sections. In the f i r s t section I present the narratives of the three p a r t i c i p a n t s as they presented t h e i r story. These narratives which are shorter accounts than the o r i g i n a l transcribed narratives, r e f l e c t the experiences of each participant's assaultive encounter. The second section focuses on the themes that are common to a l l three p a r t i c i p a n t s . The Narratives This chapter begins with the narratives of the three p a r t i c i p a n t s . These narratives represent condensed versions of the longer transcribed interviews which each p a r t i c i p a n t p a r t i c i p a t e d i n . I have included each pa r t i c i p a n t ' s narrative i n order to i l l u s t r a t e how three men who abused t h e i r wives experienced the abuse. The accuracy of each story i n terms of the d e t a i l s of the assault was confirmed by the probation o f f i c e r . Sam's Story Domestic violence i s not something that I would consider to be part of my character. I would actually consider myself to be nonviolent and, although I am not a p a c i f i s t , I did get discharged from the Armed Forces because I would not bear a weapon. The two times that I have been vi o l e n t i n my marriage have c e r t a i n things i n common. The violence i n both situations 40 occurred because I was f e e l i n g harassed or bothered by my wife. They both occurred i n the morning when I had a need to be by myself and my wife wanted to have physical contact with me. I attempted to communicate my need to my wife, i n the one instance, by c u r l i n g up into a t i g h t b a l l and, i n the other instance, by getting out of bed and leaving the s i t u a t i o n . In both situations my wife continued to bother me by either p u l l i n g at me or by making, what I considered to be, caustic and h u r t f u l comments. Her actions cause me to react. I know that violence i s not an appropriate method to resolve c o n f l i c t but i n my s i t u a t i o n my viol e n t reactions were expressions of f r u s t r a t i o n i n an attempt to be heard. I am not a good communicator when i t comes to expressing myself i n a marriage re l a t i o n s h i p . Although I believe that I can communicate well i n general, at work or i n a casual manner, I run into d i f f i c u l t i e s when there are certain "intimate" expectations placed upon me. My father was a kind man but he wasn't r e a l l y a fr i e n d and I never had a close f r i e n d during my childhood, school years or adult years so, consequently, I have never learned how to communicate i n the context of a meaningful or intimate r e l a t i o n s h i p . Although I desire intimacy, I have d i f f i c u l t y expressing my opinions or feelings i n the context of a marriage. This d i f f i c u l t y of expression i s es p e c i a l l y evident when I f e e l crowded or pressured because under these conditions I can't think st r a i g h t . This i s how I was f e e l i n g i n both the situations where 41 I became v i o l e n t . At those moments I needed to be by myself and I t r i e d to communicate t h i s to my wife both verbally and nonverbally. I am sure that I can remember t e l l i n g my wife to leave me alone and give me my space but she didn't seem to hear or at least she didn't l i s t e n to me. I also communicated through my actions of c u r l i n g up into a b a l l which for a l l intents and purposes t o l d her that I didn't want to have s o c i a l i n t e r a c t i o n with her; but again she chose to ignore me. In the other s i t u a t i o n I sat down and read a newspaper i n order to avoid further c o n f l i c t but again she kept bothering me. Although I f e l t that my wife misunderstood me i n both situations I also f e l t that she knew that I wanted to be l e f t alone but she just won't give me that option. I don't believe that she accepted me for who I am. I t r i e d throughout the marriage to adjust my l i f e s t y l e so that I could be more compatible within the relationship, I want to learn how to be intimate. I quit doing a l o t of the a c t i v i t i e s that I did before I was married because I wanted to make my wife happy. I started doing things that she wanted to do because I wanted to make things work. In return I just wanted my wife to accept me. I have always been d i f f e r e n t and I know that I have been perceived as being weird, strange or odd. I have a tendency to want to avoid the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y and commitment associated with relationships and consequently I often withdraw when I am f e e l i n g uncomfortable i n a s o c i a l setting. I know that t h i s withdrawing 42 can make other people f e e l uncomfortable but i t i s a form of protection for me when I f e e l threatened. I need my wife to accept t h i s part of me and love me for who I am. I know that I s t i l l need to change and I am t r y i n g but I need time and understanding. Probably the thing that hurt me the most was when my wife t o l d me that her marriage with me was more d i f f i c u l t than her marriage with her f i r s t husband. It hurt me but i t also angered me because i n that one statement I believe that she disregarded a l l the e f f o r t that I have put into the r e l a t i o n s h i p with her. A l l the s a c r i f i c e s which I have made and a l l the awkward situations that I have put myself into were depreciated i n that one statement. I f e l t that she was l y i n g ; she knew that statement wasn't true. In t h i s sense I believed that she deserved to be slapped and my impulse led me to h i t her with the newspaper which I was holding. In t h i s s i t u a t i o n not only did she misunderstand me but she also d e l i b e r a t e l y attempted to hurt me by making a comment that wasn't true. Part of the motivation for my violent acts was to get my wife to stop what she was doing. I wanted her to stop bothering me and to give me some space. My wife can become very stubborn and consequently not see things from the other perspective. This i s e s p e c i a l l y true when she i s insecure about the l e v e l of commitment that I display towards our marriage. She doesn't have confidence that I am committed to the re l a t i o n s h i p . The strange 43 thing is her lack of confidence makes me feel insecure about her level of commitment and we just end up going in c i rc l e s . When she is pul l ing at me or following me around and saying unkind things, I believe that she is doing this because she is insecure and this insecurity just complicates things. A part of the motivation for my violent actions is to get her to stop her insecure reactions. The other part of the motivation is more of an impulse. When my wife agitates me I tend to escalate and then go into either a fight or f l ight mode. In both of the violent situations I started out with a negative mind set. In the one instance I was thinking about a family problem and in the other time I just wanted more sleep. My wife's actions agitated me and cause me to become increasingly more angry. F i r s t , I went into a f l ight mode where I withdrew from the situation but as she kept pestering me I eventually switched to a fight mode. This is when I became impulsive and didn't real ly think about what I was doing unt i l after I had done i t . The violent actions relieved the tension, partly because she stopped doing what she was doing, and in this sense I fe l t better. I knew what I had done was wrong and I fe lt bad afterwards because I had let myself and others down but at the time a l l I was interested in was rel ieving the tension which had bui l t up inside of me. I don't know how far I would go i f I was pushed to my l imit and sometimes I get scared because I know I would act impulsively. 44 I believe that my violent behavior could have been avoided i f my wife would have shown some empathic understanding. If she would have said "I r e a l i z e that you are having a d i f f i c u l t time and that i s a l r i g h t , I s t i l l love you and accept you" I believe that I would not have reacted as I did. I do want my marriage to work, I need the emotional contact, the intimacy; I just get fr u s t r a t e d when I f e e l pressured. In a sense, I don't believe that my wife r e a l l y cooperated i n helping me b u i l d a r e l a t i o n s h i p with either her or her family. She won't understand me and she w i l l put me down in certain situations because of t h i s lack of understanding. I believe that i s what she was doing the time that I h i t her with the newspaper. I f e e l confused about my r e l a t i o n s h i p with my wife, pulled i n two d i f f e r e n t d i r e c t i o n s ; on the one hand wanting to be independent and on my own but on the other hand knowing that I need to e s t a b l i s h a meaningful r e l a t i o n s h i p . I am hard on myself and I believe that I deserve a l o t of the c r i t i c i s m that comes my way but t h i s c r i t i c i s m just adds to the confusion. My wife could help me work through that confusion just by understanding me even though I am a hard person to understand. I believe that both of the violent episodes were circumstantial i n that they occurred because of c e r t a i n s i t u a t i o n a l factors ( i . e . . the time of day, the mind set that I was i n , the mind set that my wife was i n ) . I believe that my wife contributed to the violence by her actions and attitudes and 45 therefore she i s p a r t l y responsible for what happened. Although I agree that violence i s not an appropriate response i n a c o n f l i c t s i t u a t i o n , unfortunately when the s i t u a t i o n happens the violence i s more impulsive than a premeditated behavior. I am aware that I am capable of being violent and t h i s scares me because I r e a l l y don't want to harm anyone. I am aware that part of the reason that I act the way I do i s because I have not had a lo t of experience managing c o n f l i c t s i n the context of a marriage or friendship. I have improved my s k i l l s and I am better now than I was when I f i r s t got married. I believe that I need to be helped as I adjust from being a person who i s i n c l i n e d towards being independent and introverted to a person who functions well i n a meaningful rel a t i o n s h i p . Furthermore, I believe that the best way to help me i s to understand me and to communicate that understanding to me. Paul's Story The violence that I displayed towards Mary i s regrettable although i t i s e a s i l y misunderstood i f i t i s taken out -of context. What happened on the evening of the abuse should never have happened but i t was the f i n a l stage of a progression of events. I am a drug addict and an a l c o h o l i c . My addictions have caused me much g r i e f throughout my l i f e yet at the same time the drugs and alcohol have helped ease the pain of l i v i n g . Even though l i f e with drugs and alcohol i s what i t i s and i t takes you where i t does, i t i s probably at times kinder than the world that 46 I l i v e i n when I am sober. So my problem i s more sobriety than i t i s alcoholism or drug addiction. In the months that preceded the assault my business f a i l e d , my wife and c h i l d from my f i r s t marriage were a major concern for me, and my r e l a t i o n s h i p with Mary was not going well. A l l of these things were a r e s u l t of my addiction but they were also the factors that drove me back into the substance abuse. The violence that I displayed towards Mary was a r e s u l t of my addiction problem combined with the emotional duress that I was experiencing at the time. I am not naturally a violent person. In fact i t has never been my intention to hurt anybody. I see myself as being a f a i r l y s e n s i t i v e person who has a deep desire to be accepted. When I was a kid I f e l t that I was d i f f e r e n t and I never remember my father showing his acceptance of me. In spite of the lack of support that I f e l t from my father I have experienced success i n my l i f e and i n many ways my motivation for success has been to prove to my dad that I can do i t with out his help. I have never had a l o t of good friends although I consider myself to have many acquaintances. I am naturally good with people and I l i k e to be the center of attention although I am aware that t h i s tendency can get me into trouble. I l i k e taking r i s k s and I am motivated by the desire to f e e l good. It feels good to do well at business and show people that I can do things that they didn't think were possible to do. But t h i s too, when out of control, can become a stumbling block for me. My l i f e has moved quickly and one thing 47 that I haven't been good at i s developing strong meaningful r e l a t i o n s h i p s . I have never got along with my dad, my brothers and I aren't very close, I respect my mother but even she misunderstood me, and my f i r s t wife and I never reached that l e v e l of intimacy that I would have hoped fo r . Mary was one of the few people who I r e a l l y f e l t loved me. She taught me how to love and the commitment that she had towards me f e l t r e a l l y good. I needed her love and unfortunately that need became so strong that I f e l t c o ntrolled by her. In the weeks that preceded the assault I f e l t and feared that my rel a t i o n s h i p with Mary was sl i p p i n g away. Mary was my mistress for ten years as I was married to another woman and wouldn't leave the marriage because I didn't want to hurt my wife or my son. Mary stuck by me for those ten years and was there whenever I needed her. When I got back into the drugs a f t e r eight years of sobriety, my business f a i l e d and my marriage f a i l e d . I moved i n with Mary but af t e r a couple of months I moved out because things weren't working there ei t h e r . I didn't want to move out because I wanted to be with Mary but I thought that she was acting s e l f i s h and wasn't r e a l l y understanding me. We were blaming each other for the problems that we were facing and i n the end she gave up and I was f e e l i n g defeated. We were both misunderstanding each other and we wouldn't l i s t e n to what the other person was saying. I recognize now that I tended to focus on her weaknesses and I was neglecting 48 the r e l a t i o n s h i p because of the drugs. But Mary was also contributing to the dysfunction that was present within the rel a t i o n s h i p . I believe that Mary was also sick because she was affected by me and my i l l n e s s . Therefore I don't blame her for the way that she responded to me during that time. I can understand what she was doing now although at the time i t didn't make sense to me. The week before the assault I had unsuccessfully attempted suicide because of the depressed state of mind that I was i n . The drugs, the alcohol and the fear of losing Mary a l l contributed to my insane mind set. I had t r i e d to t a l k to Mary a number of times but each time we went no where. I was having trouble expressing myself and she wasn't l i s t e n i n g therefore we would often end the conversation more frus t r a t e d than when we began. The night that I assaulted Mary I f e l t desperate, confused, and depressed. I had gone to her house twice i n that day to t r y to t a l k to her but both times we got nowhere. The communication had broken down between Mary and myself and I believed that she was turning her back on me. After ten years of s o l i d commitment I thought that she didn't want to be there any longer; i t seemed to me that she was giving up on the rel a t i o n s h i p . After being the very person who taught me how to love, the person who r e a l l y seemed to understand me, she was now displaying an uncaring attitude towards me. This was pai n f u l for me. I was scared and I didn't know how to express myself. The 49 night that I assaulted her I wanted to t a l k to her about the pain that I was experiencing but we just ended up arguing. I know today that my reactions were unacceptable but at the time I was sick and I didn't want to lose what I had. I can't r e a l l y remember the d e t a i l s of the assault but I know that I h i t her. That evening I was under the impression that she i n v i t e d me up to her place. I know that I had sexual r e l a t i o n s with her but I was and s t i l l am under the impression that she wanted to have intercourse with me. It i s obvious to me now that I wasn't thinking straight, I was losing my sanity and I was hearing what I wanted to hear. I had a need for Mary and I wanted her to understand my need i n spite of my addictions problem; i n spite of the f a i l u r e s that I have experienced because of my addictions problem. I wanted Mary to understand me. In a sense I f e l t that I was a victim i n what was happening in the re l a t i o n s h i p . Although I loved Mary and f e l t committed to her, I sensed that she was not tr e a t i n g me j u s t l y . She was turning her back on me. After a l l the good times that we had together; a f t e r a l l the things that we went through; a f t e r a l l of the e f f o r t that we put into the relat i o n s h i p together to make things work, she was walking away from me. In the past she had always been there, but now I had sensed that she was acting strange; there was no communication or understanding. In some ways I can understand now why she would have been upset with me but i n another sense I thought that her love was unconditional 50 and I expected her u n f a i l i n g commitment. In t h i s vein I f e l t that I was j u s t i f i e d i n reacting to her, although I regret the manner i n which I reacted. I didn't want to hurt her. The time I have spent i n j a i l has been good for me because i t allowed me time to heal. I have been able to see things from a d i f f e r e n t perspective now and recognize some of the mistakes that I made. It was never my intention to hurt anyone that i s why I couldn't bring myself around to leaving my wife but i r o n i c a l l y the way i t has worked out i s that I have hurt everyone involved. I see things much clearer now and I can honestly say that I am a changed person. Sure I s t i l l have the same tendencies and i t i s going to take work to keep the perspective that I now have but I am confident that I can do i t . I am not the person who I used to be. There i s no fear i n me any more and I no longer hate. I can understand things better now and I can express myself better. A l l that I would l i k e now i s to get my family back. Fred's Story The story behind the assault which I committed against my wife begins about seven months before the assault a c t u a l l y occurred. It was at that time that my wife began working as a waitress at a l o c a l restaurant. Because I worked during the day and we wanted to save on the expenses of a baby s i t t e r the only s h i f t s that she could work were evening or graveyard. It was during these s h i f t s that she meet some friends who she enjoyed 51 spending time with, which was ok with me u n t i l I found out that one of these friends was a male who frequented the restaurant. My wife began going to the restaurant on evenings that she wasn't working and I had a hunch i t was to see her friends and i n p a r t i c u l a r t h i s other male. She maintained that there was nothing going on between them but I was f e e l i n g very unsettled about what she was doing. What was even more unset t l i n g was i t was also during that time that I f e l t that my wife was acting d i f f e r e n t towards me. She was giving me the impression that she didn't want to be married to me. We weren't communicating very well which was pa r t l y due to the fact that we didn't see one another very much and when we did see each other we either argued or avoided the issues altogether. During these months I was fe e l i n g a whole host of s t r e s s f u l emotions, emotions that I didn't, for one reason or another, express. I started l i v i n g with my wife when she was sixteen years old and consequently, she fe e l s that she didn't have opportunity to experience l i f e l i k e a l o t of other sixteen year olds. Now, ten years l a t e r she wants to experience the s o c i a l aspect that I have in someways robbed her of. I want to understand t h i s need of hers but deep down I just f e e l a r i p i n my gut, and I am or was scared that I was going to lose her. We have two children as well and I don't want to lose my family. I know that I was jealous of how she was spending her time, but she has had an a f f a i r on me before and I don't want to go through that pain 52 again. I f e e l confused because I sense that she knew that she was making me jealous by what she was doing but she kept on doing i t . I was also depressed during t h i s time of our married l i f e because of the c o n f l i c t we were experiencing, because of the misunderstanding that was between us, and because I don't believe that I had an outlet to express my feeli n g s . I have never been good at expressing my emotions, something that I pick up from my father, I'm sure. My dad had a temper and although he never p h y s i c a l l y abused anyone that I know of, he did his share of verbal abuse. I am much l i k e my father i n the way that I handle my emotions. My dad and I are both moody and we both tended to use alcohol to ease tension i n our l i v e s . During the seven months before the assault the tension within me mounted. When I t r i e d to t a l k to my wife about the c o n f l i c t s that we were having she would react or become defensive, then I would react and she would end up leaving the house and we wouldn't be any better o f f than when we started. I couldn't t a l k to my friends because t h e i r wives were friends with my wife and I didn't want things that I talked about to get back to my wife. So the tension mounted and I stuffed my emotions u n t i l one night when I could hold i t i n no longer. On t h i s p a r t i c u l a r evening I went out with the boys a f t e r work and had quite a b i t to drink. I don't consider myself to be a problem drinker but on t h i s evening I drank too much. I actually don't remember the d e t a i l s of what happened when I got 53 home but I do know that I p h y s i c a l l y abused my wife. I think that the t r i g g e r to the rage was that she got her hair cut and I didn't l i k e i t because I prefer long hair but the issue was much bigger than the hair cut; i t was a l l the b u i l d up of the previous seven months. It was the jealousy that I f e l t over my wife's friendship with another male. It was the fear of re j e c t i o n and the thought that I might lose my family. It was the stress over being misunderstood. We had some people over at our house the evening that I assaulted my wife so one of the ladies took her and the children out of the s i t u a t i o n and then the pol i c e were phoned. In the meantime I had continued my rage, damaged the i n t e r i o r of the house and cut myself on some glass which I broke. I went to the hospita l , received treatment, returned home and was picked up by the p o l i c e . In my mind the alcohol was a major factor i n the assault but i t was only the means that allowed the rage to be expressed. The rage was a consequence of the tension that had b u i l t up over previous months. That tension could have been released before i t turned to rage i f my wife and I had communicated some of our misunderstandings with each other. In t h i s context I f e e l that we both need to share some of the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f or what happened on that violent evening. I admit that I am not a natural communicator and at times I am moody and d i f f i c u l t to get along with, but I did t r y to i n i t i a t e communication between my 5 4 wife and myself during those several months before the assault. In spite of my attempt i t i s my b e l i e f that my e f f o r t s were frus t r a t e d because my wife would either cut the communication off or become defensive. She i s much more able at expressing herself than I am and she would at times use that against me. When I get aroused I have a d i f f i c u l t time saying how I f e e l and therefore I would tend to lose whenever we would get into a heated, verbal exchange. Because my wife and I didn't take the opportunity to l i s t e n to each other i n an attempt to come to a mutual understanding, tension b u i l t up and consequently, I expressed that tension through a violent act. I have never been as angry or violent as I was that night and I was scared at what I had done. I am not a viol e n t person. I can never remember being in a fi g h t and although I can get f a i r l y angry I have never resorted to violence before. When we had c o n f l i c t s i n our marriage we would usually work our way through them but for the most part the c o n f l i c t s that had developed over the seven months before the assault were l e f t unresolved. During t h i s time my wife's needs and my needs clashed which caused tension and neither of us are good at handling tension. We both have friends outside of our marriage with whom we can t a l k but the friends that I had were her friends too and I didn't f e e l comfortable t a l k i n g to them about my marriage. I am not as good at expressing myself verbally as my 55 wife and therefore I do f e e l misunderstood over what has happened. After the assaultive incident I was scared and confused. I was considering leaving the rel a t i o n s h i p because I got the sense that my wife didn't want me anymore. I f e l t g u i l t y about what I had done to my wife and how my actions had possibly affected my children. I didn't want to ta l k to anyone and since I wasn't allowed to see my family I wanted to be l e f t alone. I was paranoid of what other people would think of me now that I had assaulted my wife and I knew that most people would misunderstand the s i t u a t i o n . I was s t i l l angry over the same issues that had festered for so long and I knew that i f my wife and I got back together we would need to ta l k about some of those issues. I thought that i t was important for my wife to recognize that she had some r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for some of the feelings that I was experiencing and together we needed to deal with some of those fe e l i n g s . Since the abuse I have taken steps to ensure that something l i k e t h i s w i l l not happen again. I have quit drinking, I have enrolled i n a program for men who have abused t h e i r wives and I have attempted to communicate with my wife on a much more regular basis. My wife has also shown some change. She doesn't go to the restaurant for coffee any more although she s t i l l does go to the bars with her g i r l friends. I am t r y i n g to understand my wife's needs and I think that she i s attempting to understand my 5 6 needs. Although we s t i l l have a l o t of adjusting to do I think that as long as we can express how we f e e l and ultimately understand each other there i s hope for our re l a t i o n s h i p and the p o s s i b i l i t y that I w i l l never display the type of violence that I did on that night. Common Themes Each of the participants i n t h i s study experienced t h e i r abusive actions i n a manner unique to themselves. But there were also some experiences that were common to a l l the pa r t i c i p a n t s . These common experiences have been grouped into three themes although the d i s t i n c t i o n s between the themes are somewhat ar b i t r a r y . Each theme i s intimately related to, and overlaps with, the others as a l l the themes are elements of the one larger experience. The three participants i n t h i s study a l l experienced a sense of being misunderstood, emotional duress p r i o r to and during the assault, and a sense of being j u s t i f i e d i n t h e i r abusive response to t h e i r partners. The Experience of Being Misunderstood Misunderstanding personal needs It was the experience of each pa r t i c i p a n t that there was misunderstanding between themselves and t h e i r partners before the assaultive s i t u a t i o n occurred. This misunderstanding, which had developed over the months preceding the assault, was related to the d i f f e r e n t needs that each participant and t h e i r respective partner brought to the relat i o n s h i p . Sam had a need to be l e f t 57 alone at cert a i n times. He relates how he never developed friendship previous to his current r e l a t i o n s h i p and consequently, at times he f e e l s uncomfortable with the expectations that his wife places upon him. At times Sam would f e e l intensely uncomfortable i n s o c i a l situations and he f e l t that he needed to withdraw i n order "to calm down and rearrange the s i t u a t i o n and get the perspective better". He needed to regain his composure and understand his "footing". When he perceived that his wife was i n s e n s i t i v e to his need and attempted to prematurely draw him out of himself he would react, at times v i o l e n t l y . Sam believes that t h i s need of his to understand his "footing" before he interacts s o c i a l l y c o n f l i c t s with his wife's need for emotional comfort and affirmation. He says: ...what happens i s that I am withdrawing and that makes (my wife) very nervous ... so she starts pressuring me and I am not ready to relate to anybody to discuss my feelings or discuss what I am thinking or discuss what i s bothering me and... my wife just keeps annoying me. (Z206) According to Sam his wife would become nervous and insecure when he withdrew within himself and consequently, she would t r y to force him to i n t e r a c t . Sam believes that t h i s c o n f l i c t of needs was a major source of misunderstanding between them. To a cert a i n extent i t was Paul's b e l i e f that his needs were dictated to him by his addiction. For eighteen months before the assault he was obsessed with his drug and alcohol habit, a habit 5 8 that Paul believes would cause him to act i r r a t i o n a l l y at times. In describing t h i s time of his l i f e Paul employs phrases such as "...my addiction took over; ...and when my addiction with cocaine started... the only thing that I cared about was me and my cocaine;... now my addiction has gone wild...". Paul believes that few people can understand the mind of an addict. When his need for drugs and alcohol caused him to behave i n a certai n manner he perceived that his partner didn't understand, she became "confused" and "gave up" on him and consequently, he f e l t betrayed. But Paul also had a deep need for acceptance; a need that was never met i n his rela t i o n s h i p with his father and a need that i n i t i a l l y led him into the drug culture. It was his experience that his partner no longer accepted him and his addiction which contributed to his sense of betrayal. It i s apparent that Paul's need for drugs and acceptance c o n f l i c t e d with his partner's needs which Paul never r e a l l y a r t i c u l a t e s i n his story. In the context of his story Fred had a need to f e e l secure i n his r e l a t i o n s h i p . He f e l t that his security was being jeopardized by his wife's behavior as she was "seeing" another male outside of the home and he was concerned. Fred also had a need to express his feelings of concern and jealousy. On Fred's own admission he has d i f f i c u l t y expressing himself as he often becomes tongue t i e d and confused when he t r i e s to translate his feelings into words. When he attempts to t a l k to his wife about 59 his feelings he says "... I don't know, my brain just doesn't seem to think fast enough or whatever... and the more angry I get the less I am able to express myself" (Y180,l). Fred's wife seemed to have a need to regain some of the experiences that she fe e l s she missed because she met Fred at such a young age. In an attempt to s a t i s f y her need his wife would leave Fred at home in the evenings i n order to go out with her friends and s o c i a l i z e , which was "ok" with Fred u n t i l he found out that one p a r t i c u l a r f r i e n d was a male. When he attempted to communicated his f e e l i n g to his wife he f e l t misunderstood. Fred perceives that i n spite of his attempts t h i s misunderstanding was never addressed and his wife continued to s o c i a l i z e with her friends. This misunderstanding and Fred's increasing sense of jealousy contributed to his violent behavior. Being s o c i a l l y misunderstood In understanding the needs of each pa r t i c i p a n t i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g to note a l l three men experienced a sense of s o c i a l awkwardness (not f i t t i n g in) and they a l l had d i f f i c u l t y making friends. Sam has always f e l t "odd" or " d i f f e r e n t " because of his quiet, withdrawn nature. Although he respects his father he never remembers experiencing a f u l l acceptance from his father and his mother tended to be nervous and quite c r i t i c a l toward him. He remembers being c r i t i c i z e d by his peers as he was c a l l e d "Marsy" i n grade f i v e because he had a tendency to day dream. Behind his reluctance to become involved s o c i a l l y with other 60 people i s a fear that he would not be accepted. Sam has never experienced a meaningful rel a t i o n s h i p p r i o r to the relat i o n s h i p that he was now i n . He r e c a l l s : I never had any g i r l friends or you know... anything that I could c a l l a l a s t i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p . . . I mean i t i s very d i f f i c u l t for someone to be with a guy who i s always never there h a l f the time... even when you are i n the room... pretty hard for people to deal with that... (Z223) In r e c a l l i n g his early experiences Paul remembers thinking that he was so d i f f e r e n t from the rest of his family that he thought he was adopted. He reports that: ...I was kind of a duck as a kid. I don't know, I was... weird or whatever you want to c a l l i t , you know, I didn't r e a l l y f i t i n . (X120) Paul's father was excessively c r i t i c a l of any a c t i v i t y that Paul involved himself i n . Paul was not as successful i n school as his two older brothers and he f e l t his dad's disapproval of his performance. Paul attributes his entry into the drug scene and his involvement i n i l l e g a l a c t i v i t i e s as a manner of gaining the approval of his peers and ultimately as a way of " f e e l i n g good". Paul does not remember ever having a r e a l f r i e n d u n t i l he met his partner who he fe e l s taught him how to love. In spite of his partner's input, Paul's experience of l i f e has c u l t i v a t e d a b e l i e f that: 61 People only seem to love when i t i s convenient to do so. A l o t of people are l i k e that. A l o t of people only want to be your f r i e n d when i t i s convenient to do so. When the chips are down and trouble comes or sickness comes, or by mutual disaster... you know... they are no longer your fr i e n d . Some of them aren't even acquaintances. They do a b a i l out routine. And then you f i n d yourself very alone. (X161) Paul does not have a good re l a t i o n s h i p with either his brothers or his father and at the time of the assault Paul also f e l t that his partner, his only true friend, was " b a i l i n g out" on him. Fred's memories of his childhood were traumatic as he r e c a l l s that his family was constantly moving, at times hal f way through the school year. This made i t : r e a l tough making friends... we l i v e d i n a couple of places for six months to a year and then we moved again so... you would get into a new school and be the new guy. Which i s kind of hard sometimes because you are singled out.... you end up going i n the middle of the year or just about at the end of the year or whatever and i t i s kind of awkward. (Y15-17) Fred didn't have much success i n school p a r t l y because he moved in and out of schools but also because of a learning d i s a b i l i t y that school authorities never picked up on. Fred s t i l l finds i t d i f f i c u l t to read and write and does not consider himself to be a 62 good communicator. Fred remembers his father as being an extremely busy man who spent l i t t l e time with his children, tended to drink f a i r l y heavily i n order to r e l i e v e stress and had a d i f f i c u l t time expressing himself except when he was angry. Fred's father also had a d i f f i c u l t time expressing himself and often became verbally abusive when he was emotionally aroused. Fred does not believe that his father understands him but i r o n i c a l l y and to Fred's dismay, he can see s i m i l a r i t i e s between how he and his dad handle t h e i r emotions. The i n s e c u r i t y of f e e l i n g misunderstood A l l the partic i p a n t s f e l t insecure about t h e i r relationships p r i o r to the assault and they were skeptical of t h e i r partner's commitment to the relat i o n s h i p . Sam who had never been i n a rel a t i o n s h i p before wanted to be accepted but f e l t that he was so di f f e r e n t that i t was d i f f i c u l t for anyone to accept him. He was insecure about his wife's commitment because he knew that he was hard to l i v e with and didn't know i f she could be patient with him for very long. Sam sees himself as: ...a hard person to get along with because I am so independent. In a way... I get the f e e l i n g that people don't want to be around me or something. (Z96) He f e l t that his wife married him because she just wanted out of her f i r s t r e l a t i o n s h i p and i f she knew what he was r e a l l y l i k e she would have chosen not to marry him. Now that they are married Sam i s on the one hand f e a r f u l that she w i l l leave, yet 63 on the other hand would be rel i e v e d i f she d i d leave as he wouldn't have to l i v e with the impending fear of r e j e c t i o n . Paul who also expressed an intense desire to be accepted was f e a r f u l of los i n g his partner. He was generally suspicious of people and i f he thought that someone wanted to befriend him he would wonder what i t was that they wanted from him. Weeks before the assault when his partner declined to spend time with him, he assumed that she was having an a f f a i r on him. Paul admits that i t i s easier for him to be intoxicated or stoned than to be sober because: l i f e with the drugs and alcohol, even though i t i s what i t i s and i t takes you where i t does... i t i s probably sometimes kinder than the world that I l i v e i n when I am sober. (X149) Paul f e l t insecure when his partner began to have misgivings about the rel a t i o n s h i p and his fear of los i n g her began to control him. Fred was also f e a r f u l of losing the a f f e c t i o n of his wife. He had experienced pain i n t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p once before when his wife was u n f a i t h f u l to him and he wanted to prevent the same thing from occurring again. He was aware that he wasn't the easiest person to l i v e with as he saw i n himself that which he d i s l i k e d i n his father. When his wife wanted to s o c i a l i z e with her friends Fred attempted to understand the need that his wife had but he f e l t deeply unsettled and suspicious of his wife's 64 behavior. He became intensely jealous and he feared that he would be rejected; his worse fear was that he would lose his family. Fred's need l i k e those of the other p a r t i c i p a n t s , was to f e e l secure i n the context of the rel a t i o n s h i p that he was experiencing. Misunderstanding i n the domestic r e l a t i o n s h i p In spite of t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l needs and i n spite of the shared perception of being s o c i a l l y misunderstood a l l the par t i c i p a n t ' s perceived themselves to be good communicators outside of the home. It was only i n the context of t h e i r domestic r e l a t i o n s h i p that they experienced d i f f i c u l t i e s . Even though as youth the three men had a hard time making friends each of them believed that they didn't have a problem communicating i n a casual manner (i . e . , at work, or a large s o c i a l gathering), as long as they didn't have to share t h e i r intimate f e e l i n g s . Sam believes that he can communicate well i n c o n f l i c t situations outside of his relat i o n s h i p with his wife. Concerning a c o n f l i c t that he and his wife have with another family member, Sam reports: ...We have a r e a l l y deep c o n f l i c t with the older s i s t e r . . . so to go into t h e i r home would be, you know, I could do i t and f e e l a l r i g h t . And I would l i k e to i n i t i a t e something l i k e that you know... but to get my wife together as a partner and i t seems to be d i f f i c u l t , I can do i t myself... I mean I could walk into the worse scenario and s t i l l 65 f e e l . . . It r e a l l y wouldn't bother me that much... you know, unless they t o t a l l y ignored me... (Z235) Paul maintains that he can get along exceptionally well with people. He considers his a b i l i t y to work with people a strength as he says: In a l o t of ways I have a l o t of a b i l i t y of getting around with people and being able to t a l k to people. I don't f e e l uncomfortable with people I don't have... when I am sober and i n my right mind I don't have any trouble with... any fear. And i t doesn't matter whether i t i s somebody i n a suit or somebody i n rags, you know, I don't look at people d i f f e r e n t l y ... (X63) Fred finds comfort i n a couple of friendships that he has nurtured over the years. Concerning one of these relationships he maintains that i t i s easier to ta l k to his f r i e n d than i t i s to his wife because: he [his friend] doesn't a l l of a sudden become defensive or anything l i k e that. And then I can always get his points of view too. (Y86) Although a l l three men recognized that they had a problem expressing themselves at a deeper l e v e l , they also believed themselves to be good communicators outside of the home. It was in the context of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p with the partner that they experienced d i f f i c u l t i e s i n t h e i r a b i l i t y to communicate. 66 Part of the d i f f i c u l t y that each p a r t i c i p a n t experiences i n communicating within t h e i r respective relationships i s p a r t l y r e l a t e d to the fact that they had a d i f f i c u l t time understanding the needs of t h e i r partners. Sam recognizes that his wife needs intimate physical contact but he has a hard time i d e n t i f y i n g with t h i s need (Z220). He says: My wife and my personality i s l i k e that... that i s going to create tension... I don't want to be pul l e d over from my resting, from my sleeping, and go into an emotional hugging thing; I don't want to do that right then. I don't want to be i n a s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n where I am not ready to... (Z306) To t h i s day Paul has a d i f f i c u l t time understanding his partner's needs: I had t h i s woman i n front of me that for ten years either I ran to her or she ran to me. We both needed one another, both wanted one another, we wanted to be with one another and then we were f i n a l l y together and now my addiction has gone wild and she gets to the point where she wants out and to just either gave up or... I don't know what i t was exactly why she started becoming the way she was becoming. I t r y to look at i t in so many d i f f e r e n t ways. I don't r e a l l y know u n t i l she t e l l s me. (X100) 67 Fred t r i e d hard to understand his wife's need to get out of the house but i n spite of his e f f o r t : ...I would get that old urge, you know, "grunt" that f e e l i n g i n my stomach, i t tightens up a b i t and... i t s t i l l bothers me to a sense but I can handle i t a l i t t l e better. I r e a l i z e that she has her own friends, she needs time with her own friends... (Y258-9) Fred, l i k e Sam and Paul, had a d i f f i c u l t time understanding the needs and actions of his partner. This lack of understanding contributed i n part to the c o n f l i c t i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p s . Each pa r t i c i p a n t also believed that t h e i r partner misunderstood t h e i r needs and t h i s contributed to the c o n f l i c t which led to the violence as well. In a l l three cases t h i s misunderstanding was something that developed over time and was a large factor i n the participant's account of the assault. Sam who married when he was 35 had never experienced a meaningful re l a t i o n s h i p p r i o r to meeting his wife. She was a gregarious, outgoing woman who had just l e f t a previous marriage i n order to marry Sam. From the beginning of the rel a t i o n s h i p the couple experienced misunderstanding as there was a clash between her expressiveness and his quietness. When she would want to interact with him, he would often withdraw and retreat into himself. This i n turn would aggravate his wife and at times cause her to become aggressive i n her attempt to communicate. Sam believed that his wife misunderstood him because she wasn't 68 sens i t i v e to what he c a l l e d "his footing" or how he i s f e e l i n g about himself i n r e l a t i o n to his s o c i a l surroundings. ... what r e a l l y bothers me (is) she can't seem to grasp... I mean when you t e l l someone that i s where I am... that's what r e a l l y bothers me... because she comes af t e r me and notices that I am withdrawn and that bothers her so she gets nervous... (Z116) In her nervousness Sam's wife would become intensive and in s e n s i t i v e as she t r i e d to get Sam to respond to her. If Sam i s comfortable with what he c a l l s his "inner s e l f " he then can loosen up and respond i n a tender, amiable manner. On the other hand i f he fe e l s misunderstood or: . . . i f you s t a r t p u l l i n g me into a s i t u a t i o n that I don't want to be ( i n ) . . . at that p a r t i c u l a r time... (and) I am not emotionally or p h y s i c a l l y ready to do i t and you're p u l l i n g me into that, you're p h y s i c a l l y . . . what my wife was doing was p u l l i n g me into something that I didn't want to do, i t i s not that i t wasn''t my role, I just didn't want to do i t , and i t i s the same i n any other instances... you know, don't push me into i t . . . . (Z288) In contrast Sam feels that i f his wife would t r y to understand some of the fears or inadequacies that he has i n certa i n s o c i a l situations, i f she i s sensitive and empathic towards how he i s f e e l i n g at that p a r t i c u l a r time then he would come out of his s h e l l and respond in the manner that she was wanting (Z306). 69 Paul who has abused drugs and alcohol for most of his 39 years also fe l t misunderstood by his partner. He believes that with drug and alcohol abuse: . . . i t ' s the obsession that not everybody understands... , l ike I say, a lot of people just think that you are weak willed or that you are plain crazy . . . what people don't understand about the alcoholic or drug addict is the fact that you are two people in one. (X60, X148) It was this misunderstanding that was part ia l ly responsible for the abuse (X166). Paul had fe l t misunderstood by his father, his mother and now his partner and although he acknowledges that because of the drugs and alcohol he is a hard person to understand, Paul betrays a sense that he is fearful of the rejection that misunderstanding can often bring. Paul was pained by the rejection that he felt from his partner. He had a d i f f i c u l t time understanding why she would give up on him, why she seemed to betray him and why she would misunderstand him. Fred was frustrated when he believed that he was being misunderstood by his wife. His wife was seeing another male friend on a regular basis, which caused Fred some anxiety. Fred was jealous and when he attempted to explain his feelings to his wife he believed that he was misunderstood. His wife's response to his concerns about the relationship that was developing was: He (the other guy) was just a friend. There was no reason to be concerned, he was just a friend. "There was nothing 70 going on between us so I don't know why you are acting up the way you are". (Y80) Fred's wife did not understand the i n t e n s i t y of Fred's concern. He was jealous and although Fred attempted to control his emotion the misunderstanding fueled him and was a major factor i n the abuse that l a t e r occurred. Misunderstanding and communication One of the prominent reasons for the misunderstanding i n the relationships of the participants could be related to the fact that each male had a d i f f i c u l t time expressing himself, s p e c i f i c a l l y expressing his emotions, to his partner. In the context of his marriage Sam says: I f i n d presenting my point of view can be s t r e s s f u l to me and i f I f i n d that I am not being accepted I withdraw and I sta r t thinking about i t . . . (Z57) Paul considers his i n a b i l i t y to express himself as one of his biggest problems i n his rel a t i o n s h i p with his partner. Since the assault Paul has been learning how to improve his communication s k i l l s and p a r t i c u l a r l y his a b i l i t y to express his emotions. In regard to t h i s expression he says: It seems the more I t a l k about how I f e e l the better off I am with people i n general. The more I suppress those feelings the worse I am. (X140) Fred who has developed a couple of good friendships outside the marriage finds i t d i f f i c u l t to express himself to his wife who he 71 feels i s superior when i t comes to communication s k i l l s . He often f e e l s intimidated when he argues with his wife and gets tongue t i e d when he gets aroused. Fred finds i t easier t a l k i n g to his best f r i e n d than to his wife because: ...he (his friend) doesn't a l l of a sudden become defensive or anything l i k e that. And then I can always get his points of view too. (Y86) Concerning his int e r a c t i o n with his wife Fred relates that when they are having verbal c o n f l i c t : ...she always wins... yeah, (laughs)... because I don't know my brain just doesn't seem to think fast enough or whatever, you know, too, l i k e s h e ' l l comes up with so many things and that and eh, I am s i t t i n g there and l i k e holy s h i t , but the next day I can think of a hundred things that I could have said that were just as bad or whatever, you know,... (Y180) Unlike the other two participants Fred has developed some friends over the years. He has one close f r i e n d who he feels that he can share just about anything with. But i n the home Fred can become just as frustrated as the others when he attempts to express himself to his spouse. A l l of the participants experienced misunderstanding between themselves and t h e i r partners before the assaultive s i t u a t i o n . It was t h e i r experience that the misunderstanding was mutual; they misunderstood t h e i r partners and t h e i r partners misunderstood them. Because of t h i s misunderstanding the 72 communication between them was impaired and although they talked to one another they didn't hear each others needs. Consequently, both partners were frustrated and both experienced pain. T r a g i c a l l y one of the partners experienced physical pain. The Experience of Emotional Duress P r i o r to and at Moments During  the Assault Emotional duress and impulse Sam was discharged from the Armed Forces because he would not bear a f i r e arm. Paul had been i n a previous marriage for 13 years and he had never p h y s i c a l l y abused his wife i n that marriage. Fred cannot remember ever having a physical f i g h t other than the assault that he committed against his wife. A l l these men consider violence to be contrary to t h e i r nature. Although a l l of the participants admit to having engaged i n various verbal exchanges with t h e i r spouses that could be considered verbal abuse, they believe that the acts of violence which they committed against t h e i r wife or partner were impulsive, unplanned acts stemming from a temporal sense of emotional i n s t a b i l i t y . When asked what he was thinking when he struck his wife Sam r e p l i e d : I don't think I even stopped (to consider what I was thinking), I just f e l t that that (a comment that my wife made) was a d i r t y blow so then I had that newspaper i n my 73 hand. And i t o r i g i n a l l y wasn't a weapon. Like o r i g i n a l l y I had i t as a learning t o o l and so I... (Z268). Sam didn't intend to use the newspaper as a weapon; he picked the paper up to read i t . His violent act of s t r i k i n g his wife with the paper was an impulsive act i n r e t a l i a t i o n to a comment that his wife had made about how her present marriage compared with her f i r s t marriage. The comment upset Sam emotionally, adding to the stress that had already mounted, and he reacted. As Sam was prompted during the interview to think through his thought process at the time of the violent act, he responded by saying: I think what i t was you know "Well, you offended me, you deserve a slap i n the face for that... you offended me I want... you know... you offended me and you deserve a slap i n the face." So then I did several times... (Z271). In t h i s statement he t r i e s to give meaning to his action: I slapped her because she deserved i t , i t was to teach her a lesson. There was a impulsive reaction ( s t r i k i n g out with the newspaper) to an action (a h u r t f u l comment) with no premeditated planning involved. Moments afte r the f i r s t assault Sam picked up a chair and threw i t across the room; his wife thought he was throwing i t at her. When asked about t h i s incident Sam re p l i e d : (she) got l i k e "What did you do that for, what did you do that f o r . . . " her voice got higher and she got not r e a l l y h y s t e r i c a l but close to i t and that i s what r e a l l y triggered me. Right there I changed. I changed I picked up a chair 74 and just whipped i t across the room. At that moment I f e l t that I was out of control. And then a f t e r that she said "I am going to phone the p o l i c e " and I said "Go ahead. There i s the phone, go ahead. You know I'm g u i l t y , I'm g u i l t y but t h i s i s crazy... t h i s i s not normal to me..." you know, I don't know how to communicate too well or something so I am saying "Yeah, phone the cops maybe they w i l l get me out of here". Here again Sam acted impulsively as he threw the chair i n reaction to his wife's hysteria. He f e l t out of control, recognized what he was doing was not right and wanted out of the si t u a t i o n . Sam l a t e r t e s t i f i e s how badly he f e l t about his actions and expresses that he doesn't want to be abusive. From Paul's perspective the violence that he committed was contrary to his natural d i s p o s i t i o n . Shortly a f t e r the assault he r e c a l l s phoning his partner t r y i n g to explain to her saying: "Hey, that wasn't me". She would say "It was you". I would say "Well, i t i s not me". You know I would never do that, you know. And she knows that. (X103). Paul maintains that he has never i n t e n t i o n a l l y gone out of his way to hurt anyone. As Paul t e l l s the story of the assault he r e c a l l s that he was thoroughly intoxicated and under the impression that his partner had i n v i t e d him to her house (he was not l i v i n g with her at the time). P r i o r to the assault he was depressed, desperate, helpless and had a sense of being out of 7 5 control. When he got to his partner's house the door was locked. At t h i s point Paul's account of the story becomes disjo i n t e d , a condition which he attributes to his drunken state but could also r e f l e c t h is embarrassment or shame over the incident. E s s e n t i a l l y , Paul kicked the door i n , had a b r i e f i n t e r a c t i o n with his partner, slapped her (he only remembers once) and had a sexual encounter with her. He maintains that he d i d not intend to hurt her and the wrong that he did do was a consequence of his confused, impulsive state of mind. He r e c a l l s : There was a l o t of things I didn't see. I uh, that I do now. I didn't r e a l i z e how sick I was. I didn't r e a l i z e . . . I guess I rea l i z e d , but I didn't know exactly what was wrong. For example, I mean, the night that I was arrested, I had phoned (a f r i e n d ) . . . I f e l t l i k e I was coming unglued... she said "Well, l i k e what i s going on, you know". And I t o l d her how I f e l t and she had made arrangements for me to go up to the... Hospital. She t o l d me to stay put where I was u n t i l she had made those arrangements. She had phoned me back and uh, she said "yeah, Dr. w i l l see you now, get someone to give you ride up to the hospital and I w i l l meet you there". And I did that and I was there and I just got zapped into a room to see the doctor and the pol i c e walked i n . I was emotionally screwed up. I, l i k e , I knew that there was something wrong but I didn't know what..., I didn't know why I was getting arrested again 76 other than the fact that I knew that I had h i t once... so I, you know, they put the handcuffs on and . . . I said... what are you arresting me f o r . . . and he said for assault and sexual assault and I said "Come on". I said the assault, I did h i t her but l i k e the sexual assault thing, I said "Hey, you know I didn't do that" from what I remembered... As Paul presents the story of the assault he does not consider the violence that he committed against his partner as something that he planned but rather i t the extension of a confused, sick mind that acted impulsively i n a given s i t u a t i o n . Fred also presents his acts of violence as abnormal behavior which sprang out of a p a r t i c u l a r s i t u a t i o n . According to Fred he has never experienced the type of rage that he d i d on the evening that he assaulted his wife. He was surprised at how much damage he had done as he has no previous history of being v i o l e n t or destructive. Fred believes that his violence was a resu l t of harboring a number of emotions over the previous seven months. On the p a r t i c u l a r evening of the assault Fred had some beers before he came home. Like Paul, Fred maintains that he had a memory lapse during the actual assault but he can r e c a l l certain d e t a i l s because some friends who were present during the assault have f i l l e d him i n . Fred r e c a l l s that the tensions of the rel a t i o n s h i p had b u i l t to a point that he could no longer manage his feelings on his own. The influence of the alcohol, which he 7 7 has used in the past to lower his inhibit ions, combined with the fact that his wife unexpectedly cut her hair triggered Fred into a rage. He recal l s : I wasn't in a good mood, l ike I said before, and I just snapped and. . . I guess one thing led to another.. . I was so mad that I was hi t t ing the walls with my f i s ts and that and I guess she was getting scared that I was going to hurt my hands or hurt myself in someway. I guess she grabbed one of my arms and I just ended up turning around and pushing her. I guess I launched her back and she hurt her shoulder and her head and uh, there was a lot of ye l l ing and screaming then one of her friends took her away from the place and the kids, and I was s t i l l running around in this massive rage and I hit a door that had a glass window so I cut myself and then, l ike we only l ive l ike a block and a half from the hospital so I ran there and got stitched up and eh, came back to the house and that is when the police arrived and cuffed me and took me in . ( Y 4 7 , 8 ) Like the other two participants, Fred had not consciously planned to come home and physically abuse his wife but rather he acted impulsively in response to a given situation. Emotional duress and personal power Part of the emotional duress that the participants were experiencing comes from a common bel ief that each of them had about their personal power. In a sense a l l the men in this study 78 believed that many of t h e i r actions were contingent upon t h e i r wives influence i n t h e i r l i v e s and consequently, they gave over some of t h e i r personal power to t h e i r spouses. Sam believed that one of the problems that he had i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p that he was i n was to get along with his wife's children. He says: ...you see the r e a l problem I have i s integrating with the family and that you know, I would l i k e to be more f r i e n d l y but my wife doesn't get to motivate us that way... (Z229) Sam believed that he couldn't e s t a b l i s h a r e l a t i o n s h i p with his wife's children unless she somehow motivated him as well as the children to i n i t i a t e that r e l a t i o n s h i p . He believed that the o r i g i n a l decision to get married was not his own but rather his wife made the decisions for him. Throughout the interview Sam maintains that i f his wife would have shown empathy towards him he would not have acted i n the v i o l e n t manner that he did. He says: a l l my wife had to do was say "Hey, I see that you want to have sleep or I see that you... Well, ok go ahead and sleep". Instead i t i s l i k e you know well, you're tense and she i s coming aft e r you... (Z305) . Implicit within these statements there i s a sense that Sam gave his wife a c e r t a i n amount of power over him and his actions were contingent upon his wife's acts. Paul also f e l t "controlled" by his partner as he reports: 79 ... I guess when the feelings that you have inside for someone else are so strong that you no longer care about yourself. Like I know... where those feelings w i l l take me. I don't have to k i d myself... yes, she has that much power and that much control over me. Or my feelings are that strong towards her... no one should have that kind of power over another i n d i v i d u a l . . . I guess i t i s me doing i t to myself... (X146, X l l l ) He recognizes that he i s giving his partner that "power" but that recognition does not diminish the sense of powerlessness that he i s experiencing. On the evening that Paul assaulted his partner he feared that he was losing his partner's affections and t h i s fear proved to be too much for him to handle. Fred did not f e e l c ontrolled by his wife to the same degree as Sam and Paul but he does indicate that her actions had a strong influence upon him. Her meetings with her friends agitated Fred u n t i l one day, afte r a few drinks, his "father took over" and he l o s t his temper. His fear of lo s i n g the rel a t i o n s h i p overpowered him and cause him to eventually act v i o l e n t l y . Fred needed his wife to understand him and i n t h i s sense she had "power" over him. A l l the partic i p a n t s t e s t i f y to experiencing a state of confusion, d i s o r i e n t a t i o n , or helplessness just p r i o r to or during the assaultive act. They also report that they a l l f e l t a sense of being out of control at d i f f e r e n t stages during the 80 assault. Their emotions had gotten the better of them and consequently, they had l o s t t h e i r o b j e c t i v i t y and had reacted impulsively. They were overcome by t h e i r emotions, a condition that was provoked by the substances which Paul and Fred had consumed before the event but i t was also a condition that had evolved over time i n the context of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p s . The Experience of Being J u s t i f i e d i n the Abuse which they were  Displaying. The p a r t i c i p a n t s recognized that they are responsible for t h e i r part of the problems that led to the assault. They a l l confess to be poor communicators within the r e l a t i o n s h i p e s p e c i a l l y when i t comes to sharing t h e i r deeper emotions. Sam could understand why his wife would have concerns with him as he sees himself as being d i f f e r e n t and hard to l i v e with. Paul can also understand how his wife could be upset with some of his behavior i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p . Fred f e l t some r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for marrying his wife when she was sixteen and thereby preventing her from s o c i a l i z i n g as she would have wanted to. He also acknowledges that he has mood swings and can be a d i f f i c u l t person to l i v e with. A l l of the men admit that they need to work on aspects of t h e i r character i n order to help the r e l a t i o n s h i p . Consequently, since the assault a l l the p a r t i c i p a n t s have v o l u n t a r i l y sought counselling for t h e i r v i o l e n t behavior. They are attempting to improve t h e i r communication s k i l l s so that they 81 can r e l a t e better to t h e i r partners and hopefully improve the re l a t i o n s h i p . In spite of t h e i r problems each par t i c i p a n t f e l t that he put f o r t h e f f o r t i n order to make the re l a t i o n s h i p work. Sam, Paul and Fred recognized that they were not strong i n t h e i r communication s k i l l s but they a l l maintain that they t r i e d to communicate t h e i r concerns to t h e i r partner before the assault occurred. A l l of the men attempted to communicate because they wanted the r e l a t i o n s h i p . Sam, who considers his wife to be more than a friend, comments that i t was his goal: to make sure my wife and I are enjoying each other's company... maybe just enjoying l i f e doing some things together without too many burdens you know... ( Z 3 5 ) . Paul who also considers his partner to be his best f r i e n d stated that he loved her more than he loved l i f e i t s e l f ( X 1 0 0 ) . Fred was f e e l i n g threatened by his wife's a c t i v i t i e s outside of the home because he was f e a r f u l of losing his family (Y230). A l l these men wanted t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p and i t was t h e i r experience that they attempted to communicate t h i s concern to t h e i r partners but were often frustrated i n t h e i r attempt. In t h i s sense, a l l three participants believed that t h e i r partners were p a r t i a l l y responsible for the violence that was displayed. Although they acknowledge t h e i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for t h e i r acts of violence and express remorse because of t h e i r 82 actions they a l l believe that the s i t u a t i o n that gave r i s e to the violence i s larger than the violent act i t s e l f . Sam reports that he: never a c t u a l l y planned to beat up my wife or that type of thing or to d i s c r e d i t her... It i s very disturbing to me to do that... a f t e r I h i t her with the newspaper... I f e l t very... a f e l t a deep loss of myself sense... I f e l t that I l e t everybody down and I l e t myself down... (Z144, 145). Yet, Sam also feels that his wife ought to share some of the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the s i t u a t i o n that led to the assault. According to Sam, the s i t u a t i o n became what i t was because his wife was a g i t a t i n g him. Although Sam maintains that his wife did not understand some of the issues that were on his mind at the time, he also f e l t that she understood more than she l e t on and just wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt. In other words, Sam f e l t that his wife would purposely not understand him because she was more concerned with her needs than h i s . When he wanted to be l e f t alone i n order to process his feelings, she would follow him i n an attempt to pressure him to interact with her. He f e l t that she could "... grasp that point (that he wanted to be l e f t alone) and she i s not r e a l l y giving me the benefit there..." (Z117) . In describing the circumstances leading up to the assault Sam r e c a l l s : It was l i k e early i n the morning. We were just getting up so I r e a l l y ... (had some things on my mind) and I wanted a 83 few minutes sleep. You know those are the kind of times you don't bother me, you know, she wanted to be close to me, you know,... just back up a l i t t l e . It's more pronounced i n the morning... I didn't have to get up so I f e l t I could rest for ten more minutes. I guess my wife wants some extra attention and being very ungenerous or something I just scrunched up i n a b a l l on my side of the bed and she started p u l l i n g at me and I said "buzz o f f " or something. I was getting tense. I was not f e e l i n g comfortable with t h i s , I gotta get out of bed so I got out of bed and f e e l i n g quite agitated and tensed up. I started getting my clothes on because I figured well, the best place to move (is) out of t h i s area... (Z261). Sam got out of bed, put his clothes on and retreated to the l i v i n g room where his wife followed him i n an attempt to get him to interact with her. It was a f t e r t h i s that Sam's wife made a comment and Sam reacted by s t r i k i n g her. He perceived the comment to be a l i e . He says: I remember that I was mad. I was angry ...I was saying to myself t h a t ' i s not r i g h t . . . that i s not right what you are saying... you know that i s not right about me. It doesn't f i t ; i t doesn't s i t right with me. You are not t e l l i n g the truth or you saying something that i s not h i t t i n g r i ght here. You t o l d me about your husband. You t o l d me about the s i t u a t i o n and now you are t e l l i n g me t h i s you need to be 84 brought up about... that i s what I was thinking... you aren't t e l l i n g me the truth there or something you know you colored i t . (Z270) At one l e v e l his action was impulsive but at another l e v e l Sam experienced a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n ("she deserves this") i n his action. Paul recognized that he neglected his relationships because of his addiction habit, he was self-centered and he was often very c r i t i c a l of his partner. Although the memory of what happened on the night of the assault i s very p a i n f u l for Paul he too believes that his partner i s p a r t i a l l y responsible for the circumstances that led up to the assault. In the weeks that preceded the assault Paul believes that there was a communication breakdown and they both started blaming each other for the problems i n the rela t i o n s h i p . Paul r e l a t e s : There i s a l o t of things that I can blame myself for. There i s a l o t of things that I did that I am to blame for. I guess what I am not to blame for was what wasn't part of the plan and where I think most of the problems s t a r t i n g happening i s between Christine and I and when she gave up. That i s how I see i t anyway i s I had t h i s woman i n front of me that for ten years either I ran to her or she ran to me. We both needed one another, both wanted one another, we wanted to be with one another and then we were f i n a l l y together-and now my addiction has gone wild and she gets to 85 the point where she wants out and to just either gave up or... I don't know what i t was exactly why she started becoming the way she was becoming. I t r y to look at i t i n so many d i f f e r e n t ways. I don't r e a l l y know u n t i l she t e l l s me (X100). Paul believed that his partner had given up on the rel a t i o n s h i p and at the time he couldn't understand why. He sensed that she had an uncaring attitude toward him and he found t h i s confusing. Paul maintains that he wanted to tal k to his partner the night of the assault about the relat i o n s h i p but they just argued. He perceived that she wouldn't l i s t e n to him; she wouldn't understand what he was experiencing. This increased Paul's sense of confusion; i t agitated him emotionally and the ag i t a t i o n conceived the anger which eventually led to the assault. In Paul's mind, because both he and his partner were responsible for the dysfunction i n the relationship, then they are both responsible for the circumstances that led to the assault. Because his partner was p a r t i a l l y responsible for the state of the relationship, Paul f e l t j u s t i f i e d i n his reaction but re g r e t f u l i n the form that his reaction took. Fred also believes that both he and his wife need to share the blame for the circumstances that led to the violence. Although he i s w i l l i n g to accept a good portion of the blame, in his opinion his wife was p a r t i a l l y responsible for the s i t u a t i o n because she encouraged his jealousy by nurturing a re l a t i o n s h i p 86 with a another male. When Fred attempted to express his concerns to his wife he f e l t that she did not understand and she would often become defensive. Communication was not good between Fred and his wife and t h i s was something that they were both responsible f o r . Even though both Fred and his wife have busy schedules he r e c a l l s : There has been times when i t hasn't been that busy and s t i l l . . . I don't know i t seems that we can't s i t down and t a l k about things r e a l l y serious. I don't know i f i t i s just me who just seems to clam up and... or we both do. (Y182) This lack of communication contributed to the'tension that was bu i l d i n g inside of Fred u n t i l one evening he could hold i t i n no longer. The p a r t i c i p a n t s f e l t that t h e i r v i o l e n t reaction was a re s u l t of a p r i o r action. The action that spurred the reaction may have been more of a process than an event but a l l the men could a t t r i b u t e t h e i r violent action to a i n s t i g a t i n g action. Sam reacted to his wife's comment, Paul reacted to what lie perceived to be his partner's unwillingness to talk , and although Fred may have been triggered by his wife's haircut i t i s evident that his reaction was rooted more i n the misunderstanding that had developed i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p . In t h i s sense a l l the pa r t i c i p a n t s f e l t they too were victimized because t h e i r partners did not understand t h e i r concerns, they were not sens i t i v e to how 87 t h e i r men were f e e l i n g . Fred and Sam f e l t that t h e i r wives had del i b e r a t e l y chosen to fru s t r a t e some of t h e i r e f f o r t s at adjusting to the rel a t i o n s h i p . Sam wishes that his wife would s i t down with him and show some understanding when he i s getting aroused. He says: I mean I don't know how I f e e l , . . . I expect my wife or someone to say... you know just put t h e i r arms around me and say "Hey, you know that i s ok, you know you can f e e l that way you are not going to die from i t or you not going..." that i s what I f e e l , I f e e l , I don't f e e l i n control that i s one way of looking at i t but I f e e l agitated, you know your molecules are r e a l l y moving around, you are not s o l i d you're... the e l e c t r i c i t y i s going every which way... you don't f e e l together... I f e e l that I want to s i t down with somebody and say eh... i t i s not r e a l l y l i k e your mother but i t i s l i k e you know... a l i t t l e b i t l i k e that.... you know l i k e . . . you're l o s t i n a store and you say "Hey..." That type of f e e l i n g . . . Why doesn't my wife do that? Maybe I don't give her the opportunity, you know you f e e l vulnerable. (Z150) Paul believed that his partner was affected by his condition and therefore treated him u n f a i r l y . He admits that he misunderstood his partner but he also f e l t misunderstood himself. Although these men accepted r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the assault they a l l f e l t that t h e i r spouses was also p a r t l y to blame for the circumstances 88 leading up to the assault. Consequently, a l l three men believe that t h e i r partners should receive some counselling for the part that they played i n the dynamic that eventually led to the viol e n t behavior. Because of the role that the partners played i n the c o n f l i c t the participants experienced a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n i n t h e i r reactions. Summary Three themes that are common i n the narratives of the male part i c i p a n t s who have assaulted t h e i r partners are: a l l the part i c i p a n t s experienced misunderstanding between themselves and t h e i r partner before the assaultive s i t u a t i o n ; a l l the part i c i p a n t s experienced a sense of emotional d i s t r e s s p r i o r to and at moments during the assault; a l l the par t i c i p a n t s experienced a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n i n the abuse which they were displaying. These themes are not separate and d i s t i n c t from one another but rather they weave i n and out of each other as elements of one theme can e a s i l y be found i n one or both of the other themes. These men perceived that there was misunderstanding i n the relat i o n s h i p which fueled tension and eventually contributed to t h e i r impaired emotional state. In the midst of t h e i r actions these men also experienced a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n that they were somehow j u s t i f i e d i n reacting to t h e i r partner although i n the end they were r e g r e t f u l about the viol e n t form that t h e i r reactions took. 89 CHAPTER 4 DISCUSSION The intent of t h i s study was to understand how the male who has battered his wife experiences his abusive behavior i n r e l a t i o n to his life-experience as disclosed i n a given narrative. In addressing t h i s question, I have focused on understanding the experiences of the male rather than explaining his actions i n an attempt to comprehend the phenomenon of wife assault. It i s my b e l i e f that the experiences of the three men i n t h i s study can help us to better understand wife assault i n general. In t h i s chapter I have discussed the findings of t h i s study, suggested some implications for practise and research and noted some of the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h i s study. Discussion of Results  Hermeneutics Stresses Understanding not Explanation The goal of hermeneutical research i s primarily to understand the topic of the research, not necessarily to explain the phenomenon. The hermeneutical sense of understanding means to see the phenomenon, i n t h i s case wife abuse, from the perspective of the male who has p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the abuse. It means to understand the l i f e experiences that accompanied the abusive act of the i n d i v i d u a l being studied; an understanding of the s o c i a l , psychological, and the ecological factors that contribute to the make up of the p a r t i c i p a n t . It involves "burrowing under" (Ricoeur, 1965) the knowledge and explanations 90 that currently exist about abuse i n order to deepen our understanding about domestic abuse i n general. So i n an attempt to understand the issues associated with domestic violence the hermeneutical researcher focuses on the experiences of the part i c i p a n t s involved i n the abuse, i n t h i s case the "male who abuses". Although, as a researcher, I have a desire to explain the phenomenon of wife assault, I recognize that I w i l l never be able to understand the phenomenon f u l l y unless I can understand the male who does the assaulting. Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: The Nexus of  Experience and the Tendency to J u s t i f y The experiences of each participant are i n t e r r e l a t e d as constituents of a whole, larger configuration of that person. As the pa r t i c i p a n t s abused t h e i r wives, there was a nexus of experiences as one experience interplayed with another. The hermeneutical method of inquiry attempts to understand each i n d i v i d u a l experience i n the context of the o v e r a l l experience. An example of t h i s methodological intent i s evidenced i n the process of understanding the pa r t i c i p a n t s ' experience of j u s t i f y i n g t h e i r abusive action. J u s t i f i c a t i o n i s a term that i s often associated with after-the-fact explanation. An i n d i v i d u a l , however, can also experience a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n at the moment that he or she chooses to perform an action. Within the experiences of the three part i c i p a n t s i n t h i s research project, i t i s evident that each male f e l t that at the moment at which the 9 1 abuse occurred a choice had to be made and they were j u s t i f i e d in making the choice they did, even though i t may have been an impulsive one. A l l of the participants f e l t l i k e victims i n the sense that they didn't believe that t h e i r partners understood t h e i r p l i g h t , and to a certain degree they f e l t that the partners chose not to understand and thereby d e l i b e r a t e l y f r u s t r a t e d them. Consequently, when the tensions were high the men chose to react because they believed that they were being acted upon or i n some way vi o l a t e d . Thus, i n a counselling s i t u a t i o n , a therapist might encourage the man who has abused his wife to explore t h i s sense of v i c t i m i z a t i o n and help the man to examine alternative, nonviolent methods for expressing his fee l i n g s . Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: the Tendency to  Explain, Minimize, and Deny As the male who has acted v i o l e n t l y towards his partner t e l l s his story about the abuse, and about some of his l i f e experiences that he feels contributed to the abuse, there w i l l be times when he attempts to explain the abuse. This temptation to explain seems to be a t y p i c a l response when an i n d i v i d u a l i s t a l k i n g about a questionable behavior, just as i t i s t y p i c a l for many researchers to explain that same behavior. The difference i s that the researcher tends to believe that he/she i s more of an "expert" at explaining. The explanations of the man who has abused his partner w i l l r e f l e c t his perspective with a l l of i t s biases, fears, i n s e c u r i t i e s , prejudices, and a l l the other 92 trappings that go with being a subjective "being" just as a researcher's explanation w i l l often r e f l e c t his or her own personal, p o l i t i c a l and/or academic issues. Some research indicates that men who batter tend to minimize or deny t h e i r v i o l e n t action (Scher, 1981; Star, 1980) . This tendency was also evident among the participants i n t h i s research project. The part i c i p a n t s tended to present the "fa c t s " of the assault from t h e i r perspective and a l l three participants tended to down play the v i o l e n t dimensions of the assault. But t h i s tendency does not necessarily make the "male abuser" a d i s t i n c t l y d i f f e r e n t personality than a "non abuser". Experience and research informs us that we a l l tend to t e l l s t o r i e s or construct meaning from our perspective i n which we distance ourselves from i n d i v i d u a l blame (Goffman, 1961). In other words, we a l l have a tendency to t e l l s t o r i e s from our perspective, and t h i s includes the minimization and/or denial of certain facts i n order to make ourselves look or f e e l good.- Therefore, as the participants explained t h e i r behavior, i t was my intent to look past the explanation, not to become preoccupied with the denial or minimization but rather to focus on the ex p e r i e n t i a l unpinnings of the par t i c i p a n t ' s story as a whole. In therapy, the therapist can communicate a sense of respect to the man who abused his wife and at the same time help the man explore al t e r n a t i v e choices for communicating his fr u s t r a t i o n s . 93 Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: His Need for Power and Control Another example of how the hermeneutical research method attempts to understand the experience associated with the abuse i s evident i n the consideration of the power or control issue and the assertiveness issue that i s often associated with spouse abuse (Dutton & Strachan, 1987; Hofeller, 1983). Some research has indicated that the "abusive male" tends towards having a heightened need for power and control i n intimate relationships and also tends to be less assertive than the "non-abusive male". This combination of tendencies can be dangerous because, as the "abusive male" cannot s a t i s f y his power needs verbally, he w i l l often resort to violence (Dutton & Strachan, 1987). The l i f e experience of the participants i n t h i s study i l l u s t r a t e the findings of Dutton and Strachan as the partic i p a n t s tended to have a need for control and tended to be unassertive i n t h e i r intimate r e l a t i o n s h i p . It was the experience of the participants that they f e l t helpless, confused, and desperate before the assault. These feelings of emotional d i s t r e s s are p a r t l y related to t h e i r tendency to give over some of t h e i r personal power to t h e i r partner and therefore they f e l t a sense of being out of control i n that part of t h e i r l i f e . It was t h e i r experience that they did not know how to express themselves and the larger context of these experiences was that they f e l t misunderstood by t h e i r partners. In other words, t h i s sense of being out of 94 control or being unable to express themselves was heightened i n the context of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p with t h e i r partner. It was not t h e i r experience that they f e l t out of control or unassertive i n the context of other relationships although they may have had the tendency for both of those t r a i t s . Therefore, the experience of the pa r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study not only substantiate the findings of Dutton and Strachan (1987), i t also places these findings into a larger s o c i a l context. In l i g h t of t h i s understanding, i t may be h e l p f u l i n treatment for the man who abused his wife to explore some of his b e l i e f s and expectations about control and power as they relate to himself i n the context of his relationships inside and outside of the home. Understanding the Male who has Abused his Spouse: His Tendency to  be Evasive and Uncooperative A t h i r d example of how a hermeneutical approach to inquiry can broaden e x i s t i n g research can be found i n Scher's (1981) and Star's (1980) finding that men who batter tend to be uncooperative and evasive. Wiersma (1988) indicated i n her research that the tendency to present s t o r i e s i n a manner that i s consistent with the expectations of the surrounding culture i s a human tendency that can be uncovered through an in-depth hermeneutical research approach. Men who have abused t h e i r wives may at f i r s t appear to be uncooperative and evasive as they expect to receive negative attention because of t h e i r abusive actions. The men who pa r t i c i p a t e d i n t h i s study had a l l 95 experienced some form of judgement for t h e i r v i o l e n t behavior. At the time of the interview they had been through the j u d i c i a l system which included an arrest, a court appearance, a conviction with subsequent sentencing and regular v i s i t s to t h e i r probation o f f i c e r . Each pa r t i c i p a n t also experienced a sense of being misunderstood before and during the assault. In spite of t h e i r conviction for the assault and the j u d i c i a l measures taken i n order to help the part i c i p a n t s face up to t h e i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i n the assault, t h i s sense of being misunderstood was s t i l l an on-going experience for each of them. Consequently, these men were cautiously aware and suspicious of what I, the researcher, might expect them to say i n an interview setting. Wiersma's (1988) findings can be understood i n l i g h t of t h i s study as we consider f i r s t , that the tendency to d i s t o r t " t h e i r story" i s not unique to men who assault t h e i r wives and secondly, that the d i s t o r t i o n which i s often f i r s t presented, can be uncovered as the researcher builds rapport with and includes the pa r t i c i p a n t i n the research process. As the participants believed that they could t e l l t h e i r story without being the object of the researcher's preconceived judgement and/or scorn, they became increasingly w i l l i n g to disclose t h e i r experiences. The men i n t h i s research project who were considered to be co-researchers, were not uncooperative and although they may have tended to be evasive, the evasiveness diminished as the researcher spent more time with them and communicated an intent to understand t h e i r 96 world. Therefore, although Scher's (1981) and Star's (1980) findings may apply to a s i t u a t i o n where the men who are being studied are suspicious of the research, i t i s the suggestion of t h i s study that i n a d i f f e r e n t context those same findings would not apply. One could anticipate that i n a therapeutic r e l a t i o n s h i p the degree of cooperation and openness w i l l depend upon the l e v e l of tr u s t that exists between the therapist and the abusive man. Discussion i n Light of Current Research In t h i s study I have explored the experiences of men who have abused t h e i r wives. I have focused on the par t i c i p a n t ' s i n t e r a c t i o n with his wife i n the context of his l i f e experiences as disclosed i n the given narrative. In an attempt to understand the experiences that accompanied the assaultive action I attempted to understand how each participant made sense of the l i v i n g s i t u a t i o n that led up to the abuse. I believe that the resu l t s of t h i s study complement e x i s t i n g research on domestic violence. The findings of t h i s research project are most consistent with those studies conducted by researchers who believe that domestic violence i s a human or family issue (Straus et a l . , 1980; Steinmetz, 1989). The experiences of the men i n t h i s study communicate a sense of being misunderstood, a sense of emotional duress before and during the assault, and a sense of j u s t i f i c a t i o n . Although these experiences may r e f l e c t c e r t a i n gender issues, l i k e the male's need for power and control, i t 97 seems obvious to me that there i s a desperate need for empathic understanding, within the family system and within society at large, i f we are going to address the phenomenon of wife assault. Although I did not focus on how the larger s o c i e t a l structure affected the experiences of the part i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study, I do believe that those researchers who maintain that wife assault i s caused and perpetuated by a p a t r i a r c h a l s o c i e t a l structure can broaden t h e i r understanding of domestic violence as they understand the experiences of men who abuse. The experiences of the p a r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study suggest that the acts of abuse that were displayed may have involved more than a power issue. I believe that the findings of t h i s study can also enrich the understanding of those researchers who maintain that wife assault i s caused by psychopathic tendencies i n the abusive male. This project stresses the complex nature of an i n d i v i d u a l ' s personality and the need to explore experience i n order to understand action. Although men who abuse t h e i r wives may have certai n personality problems, I believe that these problems can best be understood i n the context of those men's experiences. Implications for Practise  Applications of Present Research As the researcher focuses on the experience of the male who has abused his partner that researcher can better understand how the male perceives the abusive action. Once we understand how a par t i c i p a n t views his act of violence we can then begin to 98 understand violence as a phenomenon (Denzin, 1983). In t h i s study each participant perceived the abuse that he enacted i n a manner that was unique to and r e f l e c t i v e of his l i f e s i t u a t i o n . The three part i c i p a n t s were d i f f e r e n t as they had walked d i s t i n c t paths and had encountered a range of d i f f e r e n t experiences during t h e i r l i v e s and p r i o r to the assault. But within t h e i r uniqueness there were some themes that were common to a l l three p a r t i c i p a n t s . The men i n t h i s study experienced a sense of being misunderstood, of being emotionally distressed before and during the assault, and sense of being j u s t i f i e d i n the action which they were performing. Although the researcher and/or therapist may not agree with how the men who abuse t h e i r partners arrange and construct meaning i n t h e i r l i v e s , he or she needs to appreciate the complexity and implications of t h e i r experience i n order to gain a better understanding of t h e i r abusive actions. In Rogers' (1980) words, i n order to understand others we need to enter: ...the private perpetual world of the other and becom[e] thoroughly at home i n i t . It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing f e l t meanings which flow in t h i s other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever that he or she i s experiencing. It means temporarily l i v i n g i n the other's l i f e , moving about in i t d e l i c a t e l y without making judgments, (p. 142) 99 This type of empathic understanding i s necessary i f the therapist desires to encourage change i n the other i n d i v i d u a l . In order to help the male who has assaulted his partner to change his assaultive behavior the therapist needs to understand the world of the male who has done the assaulting. Domestic Violence as a Human Issue In the attempt to understand wife assault from the perspective of the male who has abused his partner, i t becomes evident that domestic violence involves more than merely being able to c l a s s i f y "assaultive males" into c e r t a i n personality p r o f i l e s . Although there i s evidence that one or more of the pa r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s research suffered from low self-esteem, had no close friends with whom he could discuss his problems, was highly dependent upon his spouse, had a need for control i n his relationship, and had a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol, these " t r a i t s " need to be understood i n the context of each pa r t i c i p a n t ' s l i f e s i t u a t i o n . The experience of the participants i n t h i s study suggest that although the men are ultimately responsible for t h e i r acts of violence, those same acts stem from a p a r t i c u l a r context that involves numerous interactions between the i n d i v i d u a l who did the abusing and others i n his work and family l i f e . In t h i s regard Stewart and Healy (1989) write: [S]ocial experiences, i n i n t e r a c t i o n with i n d i v i d u a l development, have consequences for i n d i v i d u a l s ' worldviews when they are experienced i n childhood, for t h e i r i d e n t i t i e s 100 when they are experienced i n late adolescence and the t r a n s i t i o n to adulthood, and for t h e i r behavior when they are experienced i n mature adulthood. This i s not to lessen the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of the male for his acts of violence as much as to broaden our o v e r a l l understanding of domestic violence. The violence displayed by the three pa r t i c i p a n t s i n t h i s study a l l stemmed from a s o c i a l context, a context which included int e r a c t i o n with the partner who was abused. This partner who interacted with the male months before the abuse and moments leading up to the abuse had an influence on the experience of the male. A l l the part i c i p a n t s believed t h e i r partners were better communicators than they themselves were but they also experienced f r u s t r a t i o n i n t h e i r attempts to communicate with t h e i r partners. Misunderstanding was a common experience among the p a r t i c i p a n t s . They a l l f e l t that they misunderstood t h e i r partner and they had a sense of being misunderstood themselves. A question that may ari s e from t h i s study i s , i s i t possible that abuse can be avoided as both partners learn how to understand and communicate that understanding i n an e f f e c t i v e manner to one another? This would of course only be possible i f there would be an a p r i o r i agreement by the couple that violence was not acceptable as a means to solve t h e i r problems. 101 Need for Mutual Understanding McNeely and Mann (1990) suggest that i t i s erroneous to c l a s s i f y spousal violence as a problem that i s unique to one gender group. They believe that the approach which views domestic violence i n gender terms only can: ...fragment the array of resources needed to address the problem successfully. More important, i t perpetuates the divisiveness so common in our society. We simply do not need to encourage a r t i f i c i a l d i v i s i o n s between men and women anymore than we need to encourage or maintain d i v i s i o n s among the races, the age groups, the healthy verses the infirm, or those with d i f f e r e n t sexual orientations. Although McNeely and Mann's comments may come under c r i t i c i s m from cert a i n schools of thought because of a b e l i e f that such thinking diminishes r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the vio l e n t acts (MacKinnon & M i l l e r , 1987), t h e i r comments encourage a common understanding between the genders. A central theme that pervades each pa r t i c i p a n t ' s narrative i s a theme of f e e l i n g misunderstood before and during the assaultive s i t u a t i o n . It was t h i s misunderstanding which contributed to and perhaps escalated the emotional duress which each participant was experiencing. This sense of being misunderstood also contributed to the part i c i p a n t ' s experience of being j u s t i f i e d i n his abusive action. Denzin (1984) who also studied the experience of males who batter noted that his participants became less able to 102 communicate and increasingly h o s t i l e the more that they f e l t misunderstood. If the experience of being misunderstood i s a theme that i s common among men who abuse t h e i r spouses perhaps i t would be b e n e f i c i a l for therapists to help both partners to communicate understanding i n a more e f f e c t i v e manner provided that the physical safety of a l l members of the family i s ensured. In t h i s sense i t may benefit the partners who received the physical abuse to understand the experience of the male that abused them. Not that the partner who was abused needs to take r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for the violent act but rather to understand the male's perspective and from that perspective understand what part she may play i n de-escalating future s i t u a t i o n s . As the male receives therapy for his abusive behavior, the female may f i n d i t h e l p f u l to be included i n the therapeutic process, provided that her physical safety i s ensured, i n order to understand her husband's experiences and together they may explore methods of how to improve t h e i r communication s k i l l s . Denzin (1984) found that when violence i s acted out i n a home i t has a tendency to a f f e c t each member of that household to the point that there i s a breakdown i n the c i r c u i t of i n t e r a c t i o n that holds the family together. Since misunderstanding was a major theme that was common to a l l the participants, and i n l i g h t of Denzin's finding, i t may be useful for the therapists and program directors to focus on enhancing the understanding between the partners and within families, as well as engage the male who abused his wife 103 i n some i n d i v i d u a l and group therapy i n order to address some of the issues that other research has i d e n t i f i e d as common to the male who has acted v i o l e n t l y i n a domestic se t t i n g . Implications for Research A strength of the hermeneutical method of inquiry i s that the main focus of the approach i s to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon i n question. The complexity of an ind i v i d u a l ' s character i s appreciated and as such the findings of studies l i k e t h i s one are l i m i t e d in t h e i r g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y . In t h i s project the researcher investigated the l i v e s of three i n d i v i d u a l s who have abused t h e i r wives and the narratives represent the experiences of those i n d i v i d u a l s . But the understanding that i s attained i n the application of the hermeneutical method of inquiry can broaden our o v e r a l l understanding of a phenomenon l i k e domestic violence and consequently, questions can be posed for further study. Further research may include a hermeneutical study on men from a d i f f e r e n t culture. The men i n t h i s study were white, middle class, Anglo-Canadians who were between 25-43 years old. It would be i n t e r e s t i n g to compare, for example, the experiences of the men i n t h i s study with the experiences of Indo-Canadian or Asian-Canadian men who have abused t h e i r wives. Another area of research might be to conduct a hermeneutical study on the experience of the male who has abused and on the experience of 104 the female who was abused and have both male and female function as co-researchers i n the creation of t h e i r respective narratives. The question "Is i t possible that abuse can be avoided if/when both partners learn how to understand and communicate that understanding i n an e f f e c t i v e manner to one another?" has been asked above. It i s my hunch that i n a society such as ours where we tend to answer before we l i s t e n and judge before we understand, we also tend to alienate i n d i v i d u a l s who display aberrant behavior. In t h i s sense we as a society may frustrate the very attempts that we make to address s o c i a l issues such as domestic violence. Establishing and maintaining an environment of mutual understanding within the context of family and society may be a key i n helping individuals deal with the personal and r e l a t i o n a l c o n f l i c t s that they experience before those c o n f l i c t s evolve into an abusive s i t u a t i o n . This i s indeed a challenge to us as i n d i v i d u a l s , partners, and c i t i z e n s of a larger society. Some Personal Reflections During t h i s research project I have gained a renewed appreciation for what Kegan (1982) refers to as that "zone of mediation where meaning i s made" (p. 2). I have come to believe more firmly that the experiences of the man who assaults his wife can be best understood once we understand how that man makes sense of his l i f e s i t u a t i o n . Furthermore, I believe that i f I want to understand the assaultive actions of an i n d i v i d u a l , I need to l i s t e n to what that i n d i v i d u a l was experiencing at the 105 time of the assault. In my opinion the hermeneutic approach to inquiry i s an e f f e c t i v e method of understanding the experience that accompanies a phenomenon. I believe that the hermeneutical method allows the researcher to enter into a r e l a t i o n s h i p with the p a r t i c i p a n t s and through t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p I assume that a narrative that r e f l e c t s the experiences of the pa r t i c i p a n t can be obtained. I have also learned that I can l i s t e n to an ind i v i d u a l ' s experiences and attempt to understand those experiences without necessarily agreeing with the action that accompanied those experiences. Limitations of Present Research The findings i n t h i s study represent the experiences of the three men who p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the research project and therefore can not be generalized to the population at large. The narratives are based upon the story that each p a r t i c i p a n t t o l d during the interview process and consequently, i t i s recognized that the par t i c i p a n t may not have included some aspects of the story surrounding the assault. Although I attempted to address t h i s concern by having the facts of the assault confirmed by the probation o f f i c e r i t i s s t i l l possible that the par t i c i p a n t omitted some parts of "his story" that were outside of the domain of the p o l i c e report. 106 REFERENCES Alexander, I. (1988). Personality, psychological assessment, and psychobiography. Journal of Personality, 56(1), 2 65-2 94. A l l e n , K., Calsyn, D. A., Fehrenbach, P. A., & Benton, G. (1989). 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Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Young, R. A., & C o l l i n , A. (1988). Career development and hermeneutical inquiry part I: The framework of a hermeneutical approach. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 22(3), 153-161. Appendix A Information: Research Study (Letter of i n i t i a l contact) 1 1 4 Information: Research Study (Letter of i n i t i a l contact) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN I am a graduate student currently at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia i n the Department of Counselling Psychology. I am interested i n conducting a research project on the topic of "Understanding the man who batters his wife". I am i n the need of three p a r t i c i p a n t s who have acted out abusively (physically or sexually) toward t h e i r wives and who are w i l l i n g to t e l l me t h e i r story. For the purpose of the study i t i s preferable to involve males who, because of the assault, are serving a probationary sentence. I am interested i n interviewing such a male for the purpose of understanding the area of family violence. I w i l l ask the p a r t i c i p a n t questions such as: What are some of your early memories; what are your goals and plans for the future; what events or thoughts make you happy; what thoughts make you sad. I w i l l also ask the participant questions about the episodes of abuse towards his spouse which may include: what factors led up to the assault; i f there was more than one assault which assault was the most traumatic for you. During the interview I am primarily interested i n l i s t e n i n g to what i s meaningful for the participant although I w i l l confer with either the probation o f f i c e r or the spouse i n order to understand the facts of the assault(s) more completely. 115 It i s my intent to involve each pa r t i c i p a n t as a co-researcher whereby together we may explore how the p a r t i c i p a n t experienced the abuse. Each participant w i l l be involved i n at least three interviews with each interview l a s t i n g approximately an hour and a h a l f . The exact number of interviews w i l l depend upon whether the p a r t i c i p a n t thinks that everything that needs to be said has been communicated. The interviews w i l l be conducted at time which i s convenient for both the researcher and p a r t i c i p a n t . The interviews w i l l be audio taped for research purposes only and w i l l be kept s t r i c t l y c o n f i d e n t i a l . The p a r t i c i p a n t w i l l be under no obligation to p a r t i c i p a t e in t h i s project and w i l l be permitted to withdraw at any time. He also has the right to request that a l l taped information obtained during the interviews, or any section of the tape, be erased i f he so desires. It i s to be noted that the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s choice to either p a r t i c i p a n t or not p a r t i c i p a t e i n t h i s research project w i l l have no e f f e c t on that participant's probationary sentence. It i s not the intention of t h i s research project to provide therapy for the participant therefore the p a r t i c i p a n t w i l l not receive counselling from the researcher during t h i s project. The researcher w i l l inform the participant of the r e s u l t s of the study and w i l l keep the i d e n t i t y of the p a r t i c i p a n t c o n f i d e n t i a l i n published or unpublished material. Doug Hampson BA; MDiv UBC Counselling Psychology (MA) Student 116 Appendix B Consent Form: Research Study 118 I am aware that the researcher may contact my probation o f f i c e r i n order to obtain a l l the facts surrounding the abusive situation(s) that I have been involved i n , and I give my consent for the researcher to use my name i n dialogue with the probation o f f i c e r and I give my consent for the release of any information which may be help f u l for the purpose of t h i s research project. Other than i n the conference with my probation o f f i c e r , as mentioned above, my name and any other personally i d e n t i f y i n g information are not required i n t h i s project. The information needed for t h i s research project w i l l be transcribed i n a few weeks of the interview and the audiotape w i l l be erased. The audiotape w i l l not be available to any persons other than the researcher and other members of the research team. I understand that my p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h i s project i s voluntary and my be terminated at any time. Should I have any questions about the procedures, I am free to make i n q u i r i e s (ask questions) at any time. There are no known r i s k s to the par t i c i p a n t s . I also acknowledge that t h i s research study has been adequately explained to me and that I have received a copy of t h i s information and the consent form. Signed Date Appendix C (Letter of i n i t i a l contact from Agency) 120 TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN The Abbotsford Salvation Army has agreed to allow Doug Hampson to conduct research out of the o f f i c e of the Abbotsford Salvation Army Counselling Center. This research w i l l be applied towards Mr. Hampson's Masters thesis at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia. As a service to you and for your interest we have taken the i n i t i a t i v e to contact the c l i e n t s of The Salvation Army who, i n our opinion, may be interested i n p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n Mr. Hampson's research. If you are interested i n taking part i n the research project outlined i n the enclosed l e t t e r please contact the Abbotsford Salvation Army Family Services O f f i c e Yours sincerely, Dave Grice, Lieutenant 

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