Unclenching Our Fists
124 pages

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This book features eleven first-person stories of men from diverse class and racial backgrounds who have made a long-term commitment to end their physical and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors. These men speak frankly about the abuse they inflicted on their families, what it took to get them to face themselves, and how they feel about the damage they have caused. All participated in violence intervention programs, some for as long as ten years. To put a face on violence and to encourage activism for reform, most of the eleven have allowed their photos and real names to be used in the book.

Surrounding this material are chapters that provide context about the disputes among researchers about whether batterer intervention programs work (only a small number of batterers renounce their abuse) and chapters that address the reactions of partners to these stories. "When the Man You Love is Abusive" is designed to caution women not to be manipulated by accounts of change and to outline the stages men need to pass through in the long process of becoming accountable. "The Last Word: Voices of Survivors" ends the book with a focus group discussion in which former abuse victims and advocates respond candidly to the men's stories.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 novembre 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780826519436
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1000€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Unclenching Our Fists
Unclenching Our Fists
Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence
Sara Elinoff Acker
Photography by Peter Acker
Vanderbilt University Press
© 2013 by Vanderbilt University Press
Nashville, Tennessee 37235
All rights reserved
First printing 2013
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file
LC control number 2013002806
LC classification HV1441.8.U5E45 2013
Dewey class number 362.82'9286—dc23
ISBN 978-0-8265-1941-2 (cloth)
ISBN 978-0-8265-1942-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-8265-1943-6 (ebook)
In memory of my father, Saul Elinoff,
who showed me from the start
what a safe and loving man can be. . . .
1 . Working with Abusive Men
The Men’s Stories: Author’s Note
Chuck Switzer
Emiliano Diaz de Leon
“James L.”
Robin Schauls
Steve Jefferson
Ron Lenois
Darius Richardson
Robert Kurtz
Dave Weir
2 . The Road to Nonviolence
3 . When the Man You Love Is Abusive
4 . The Last Word: Voices of Survivors
Selected Bibliography
Unclenching Our Fists
We clench our fists in a moment’s notice, but unclenching them is another matter.
—Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist who reported on the Chechnya war and was shot to death outside her Moscow apartment in 2006.
FOR MY COLLEAGUES AND me in western Massachusetts, the late 1980s through the mid-1990s was a devastating time to work with families affected by domestic violence. There had been an unprecedented string of domestic violence murders: over the course of eight years, ten women and one child had been killed. One was particularly horrific. Sherry Morton and her eighteen-month-old son, Cedric, were stabbed to death by Sherry’s ex-boyfriend, the baby’s father. The entire community was traumatized.
In the wake of these murders, the community became determined to create a more coordinated and collaborative system to try to reduce the risk of lethal violence. Spearheaded by the District Attorney’s office, key players in the community—police officers and dispatchers, prosecutors and probation officers, advocates and batterer intervention counselors—collaborated to create a more seamless response to families affected by domestic violence. One of the people at the table was Yoko Kato, the mother and grandmother of Sherry and Cedric. A local dressmaker who decades earlier had come to the United States from her native Japan, Yoko forged her grief over their murders into a commitment to work as a domestic violence activist.
Yoko knew that helping survivors wasn’t enough. She realized that no matter how many victims were helped, the source of the problem was the men who were abusive and violent. She yearned to understand how to stop men’s violence. This is what brought her to Men Over coming Violence, the batterer intervention program where I worked, part of the Men’s Resource Center for Change in Amherst, Massachusetts. Yoko joined our board of directors.
It was Yoko’s idea to dialogue directly with some of the men enrolled in our program. She wanted the opportunity to ask domestic violence perpetrators some difficult questions. Why did they feel justified hurting their partners? What excuses did they make for their behaviors? How did they learn to be violent? What got them to wake up and face themselves? She also wanted to share her story, the story of Sherry and Cedric and her work as an activist. We arranged a meeting one November afternoon in 1997 with Yoko, five members of our group program, several of our counselors and our program director.
It had been four years since Sherry and Cedric had been killed. My colleagues and I were nervous. We had never seen anything like this before: a survivor and perpetrators sitting in a room together, speaking directly to one another. I had worked in battered women’s programs for more than a decade before becoming the partner support counselor at Men Overcoming Violence. In all my years doing domestic violence work, there was always a firewall between domestic violence victims and perpetrators. Unless they were in a courtroom, survivors and perpetrators were never intentionally brought into the same space.
Healing, possibility, and hope can show up in the most unlikely of places. The meeting that day was one of those places. Our small meeting room was crowded, buzzing with tension. At Yoko’s invitation and with the permission of the participants, the entire dialogue was being filmed by a Japanese television crew. In addition to her work as a local activist, Yoko was taking domestic violence prevention work back to Japan, where the issue was an enormous problem with scant awareness or resources to address it. The footage from the meeting was going to be part of an expose on domestic violence, offering the first glimpse many Japanese citizens would have of domestic abuse perpetrators talking about their violence.
The men who participated in the meeting that day had been invited to attend by program staff because they had shown promise. Each had acknowledged responsibility for his violence and had been attend ing our program for at least two years. Each also agreed to share his story with Yoko.
Because there was no place left to sit, I stood in the doorway. While Yoko shared her story, the men listened attentively. Her voice broke when she described her daughter and grandson, what they were like while they were alive, and her relationship with them. She spoke of Sherry’s abusive relationship, her struggle to break away, and the trauma of their violent deaths. She talked about her feelings about the perpetrator, sitting in jail after being found guilty of their murders. Finally, she spoke about her mission to end the violence that took the lives of her daughter and grandson. The room was so still I could hear my own breathing.
One by one, the men began to tell their stories. They talked about the abuse they had perpetrated against their partners and the damage their behavior had caused. They talked about getting arrested or being served restraining orders and what it had taken to finally get them to take responsibility for what they had done. They talked about the work they were doing in our program. Each voiced his regrets; some choked back tears. They seemed to sense how deeply Yoko was listening, sharing with her both their deep remorse and the pride they felt about their small successes. They shared with her the wounds they were working to heal and, most significantly, the different men they were becoming. Yoko challenged the men to continue their work and to reach out to other men who had violence and abuse problems.
Yoko told me later that the meeting was an important turning point in her own healing process. Though the man who murdered Sherry and Cedric was in prison, he continued to be unremorseful. By contrast, the men who shared their stories had taken responsibility for their violence. This was important for her to witness. “I wanted to see if some of these men—if they got the right intervention and support—could really end their violence,” she told me. “It’s too late for Sherry and Cedric, but the work you are doing might help save someone else’s children and grandchildren.”
When I first started working in the field of domestic violence, I didn’t believe abusive men could really change. Now I know that some can. Sadly, men who’ve committed to change are only a small minority of men who are abusive. Too many abusive men continue to live unrepentant lives, unaccountable, still a danger to their families. The men whose stories you will read are part of a select group chosen by batterer intervention program leaders from around the country as representatives of the best possible outcome: men who have faced themselves and stopped their abusive behaviors. Many of them did not choose to enroll in their programs, but ultimately each did choose to become nonviolent. It is my hope that their stories will inspire others to make the same choice.
A caveat: The stories in this book are those of heterosexual men who were abusive to their female partners. It’s important to recognize that domestic violence is a huge concern in lesbian, gay, and transgender communities, where it appears to occur at similar rates as in heterosexual relationships. In addition, there is increasing awareness of women who are perpetrators. However, the vast majority of domestic violence victims continue to be women abused by their male partners, according to Department of Justice statistics. 1 This book’s focus reflects that reality.
The men in Unclenching Our Fists tell about the abuse they perpetrated and how eventually they had to face the consequences of their behaviors. They recount their early days in their programs, and the ways their thinking and behavior started to change. They talk about the damage they caused, the relationships that cannot be repaired, and the guilt and sorrow they carry. They reveal what allowed them to go deeper into the painful, liberating work of self-examination and the supports that kept them going. Many talk about the roots of their violence, in their experiences as children and in the messages they received about manhood and masculinity. A few are still with the partners they once abused; for most, their abuse destroyed their rela

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