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From the Archives: "When Men Batter Women."

Neil Jacobson was a colleague of John Gottman, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington, and a pioneer in the scientific study of marital therapy. He died June 2nd at the age of 50, from a heart attack. Last year he and Gottman co-authored "When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships" (Simon & Schuster). The book is based on their decade of research with 200 couples in which they observed the arguments of severely violent couples. Their research shatters a couple of myths: that women batter too, and that women often provoke men into battering them. (INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY MARTY MOSS-COANE/REBROADCAST from 3/2/98)


Other segments from the episode on June 18, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 18, 1999: Interview with John Gottman; Interview with Neil Jacobson; Review of the film "The General's Daughter."


Date: JUNE 18, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061803NP.217
Head: Why Marriages Succeed and Fail
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

A lot of marriages fall apart because the couple can't deal with their disagreements. That's where my guest Dr. John Gottman comes in. He's spent the past 25 years observing how couples interact and analyzing why some relationships last and others fall apart.

Gottman is the founding director of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute and is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He's written a new book called "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work."

In 1997 I talked with him about his work with couples. I asked him what he looks for when he observes how couples interact.

JOHN GOTTMAN, DIRECTOR, SEATTLE MARITAL AND FAMILY INSTITUTE; AUTHOR, "THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR MAKING MARRIAGE WORK": Well, actually the only thing I really bring to the whole question is just one thing, and that -- if I can tell you a story.

When I was a beginning assistant professor, I was interested in the problem of kids who didn't have any friends. And I found that there was a psychologist who had developed a program to help kids make friends.

And I called him up and I asked him for information about the program and would he send me the materials he had developed. And then I asked him, "how did you develop these materials?"

And he said, "well, I sat around with a couple of graduate students and we tried to imagine what it was like to be four years old. And we figured out how to make friends."

And I did some research after that, which took me about ten years to find out how children really do make friends.

Turned out that he was teaching children to do things like go over to other kids and say, "hi, my name is Harold, can I play with you?" And that turned out, in the research I did later, to be the perfect way to get rejected.


GROSS: Yeah.

GOTTMAN: So, you know, the only thing I bring to this whole thing is really trying to find out what it is that real couples do whose, you know, marriages are going well, you know, marriages are stable and satisfying, rather than trying to assume that I know.

We do things like, you know, in Seattle we have 130 newlyweds we've been following for the past eight years. And we also study couples who have been married a long time, two groups of couples in their forties and one group of couples in their sixties, and try to see, you know, just what do these people actually do to make their marriages work.

GROSS: Now, how do you study this?

GOTTMAN: A variety of ways. We really try to do it just about every way we can.

I have an apartment laboratory in Seattle where couples live for 24 hours. And they don't have any instructions. They just come there in the morning with a bag of groceries and they read the Sunday paper and they eat together and watch television and work, do what they normally would do at home.

We also have them talk about...

GROSS: Wait. But you're running surveillance on them while they do this, right?

GOTTMAN: Right. There's four cameras pointed...


They wear these halter monitors that measure electrocardiograms. And so -- and every time they urinate we take a sample of the urine and get stress hormones out of the assays and take blood from them at the end and look at their immune system. But, after about 45 minutes, people are really kind of behaving naturally.

We actually know that they never totally behave naturally. They're a little nicer to each other when there are cameras there than they would be at home. We've actually recorded them at home, and there's a lot more upset and nastiness that goes on for longer periods of time when they're home.

GROSS: So, if somebody says, dear, you know, I really hate it when you leave the dishes for me to do, then you're measuring the stress hormones, blood pressure, heart beat...

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: ... in both of the members of a couple when this conversation continues.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. That's right. That's right.

And then we show them their videotapes and ask them to tell us, you know, what were you thinking, what were you feeling, what do you think your partner was thinking and feeling? We interview them about these moments.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

GOTTMAN: And then we, you know, we record their facial muscles and code exactly what emotional expressions are on their face, what's going on in the voice, what's going on in the body, what they're saying. So, we actually have observers there coding people's behavior, categorizing every small behavior that they engage in.

And then we interview them about the history of their relationship -- how they met, how they think about their marriage, and, you know, various difficult times and how they get through difficult times. Try to get their philosophy and their, you know, own narratives about their marriage.

Very much like Studs Terkel would do, you know, when he sits with somebody in their attic and asks them, well, tell me about this doll, you know. In fact, we model a lot of our interviewing on Studs Terkel's methods.

GROSS: When you are doing one of these marital interviews, does each member of the couple contradict the other in describing the marital history?

GOTTMAN: Happens sometimes, yeah. Most of the time they kind of complete each other's sentences and they're, you know, they present really sort of a united front.

But a lot of times you'll find one person says, well, you know, this is a very difficult period for us. And the other person says, well, for you it was a difficult period, for me it was a great period. And so, that person is really saying, you know, we're not really a unit, we're very different from each other. So, it does happen a lot.

GROSS: Do the couples watch the videotapes that you make of them?

GOTTMAN: Yes, they do. And we ask them to sort of narrate those videotapes and tell us what was going on in their minds, what were they thinking about, what were they feeling during those tapes? And we try to find out sort of what's different about what the observers see and what they perceive.

GROSS: And what is often different?

GOTTMAN: Well, there's a very interesting phenomenon that happens in some marriages. Some of the time the observers will say, well, this comment was really quite neutral, you know, it wasn't, you know, it wasn't even emotional. And yet the spouse will perceive it as very provocative, you know.

Like, for example, you know, a wife might say something like, "you know, you really aren't supposed to run the microwave oven with no food in it." And yet the partner will say, "don't tell me what to do, you know. Did you read the manual? You never read manuals. That's your problem."


And some of the times, you know, you know, that wife might say something like, "what's the matter with you? You're not supposed to run the microwave with no food in it." And the husband will say, "oh, yeah, OK, thanks, I didn't know that."


So, you have this discrepancy between the way observers see it and the way the partners see it.

That turns out to be a very critical dimension, because if you have a positive perspective you see these sort of irritable kind of statements. You take the irritability as if the statement were in italics. You know, you say, "oh, this must be important to my partner."

If you've got that positive perspective, it turns out to predict an ability to repair conflict when it doesn't go well. And if you don't have that positive perspective, if you have more of a negative perspective, it predicts in fact that your ability to resolve conflict will deteriorate over time.

GROSS: Hmm. So, people get deeper and deeper into those patterns?

GOTTMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

GROSS: When somebody sees this on the videotape, or when you point it out to them, how easy is it to repair?

GOTTMAN: It really isn't easy to change the positive or negative perspective. You have to do a whole bunch of things that really underlie these.

And that's one of the things that we've discovered in the past couple of years is that, you know, there's been a focus, a very strong focus on the resolution of conflict as being the way that couples really can get close and make their marriages work.

And we've discovered that really that's wrong, that in fact the everyday interaction that couples have with one another -- and there really are three things that form the basis of this positive perspective that makes them able to solve problems.

One of them is just kind of knowing one another, knowing things about one another, and it really has to do with -- well, we actually have a board game that couples play in our workshops where we ask them things like, who is your spouse's least favorite relative? Or, what side of the bed does you spouse prefer to sleep on? And a lot of people don't know things like that.

GROSS: So, what you're saying there is one of the really most aspects of a successful relationship is paying attention to the person you're in the relationship with.

GOTTMAN: Exactly. And knowing things about them. So, if you opened up the skull of some guys, you know, you'd find a lot of brain cells allocated to the relationship and the partner. And other guys, you know, you'd find, you know, very few.

And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see this. So when we asked people how they met, you know, some guys are saying things like, oh, you know, it was, I remember the night. We met at this dance.

And, you know, she was wearing a yellow dress and the band was playing "As Time Goes By." And I thought, this is a slow song, I could ask her to dance, but then I found my feet were glued to the floor, my heart was beating fast. And then she came over, asked me to dance.

And you ask another guy, how did you and your wife meet, and he'll say, "Anna, how did we meet?"


You know, it's very, very clear differences between people. So, that's the first step out of three for building this positive perspective.

GROSS: And what's the next one?

GOTTMAN: Well, the next one is really the fondness and admiration system. It's really how much affection there is and how much respect there is in this relationship.

And some people really, you know, spontaneously say things like, boy, you know, there's one thing I really admire about Jane, you know, she's really got a lot of guts. I mean, she had this boss who was really domineering, and Jane just went in and told her what she thought. And, boy, I would never do that, you know. And she's done this with our son, too, and she's gone and, you know, confronted the teacher who was really giving him a hard time.

And, you know, some guys never say things like that. And we find that this fondness and admiration system is really critical in keeping romance going in the relationship.

GROSS: And the third?

GOTTMAN: And the third is what I call the emotional bank account. It's really -- really doesn't have much to do with emotional events. It's these everyday sort of mundane events that happen between people who are in a close relationship.

And, you know, it could be something like one person is brushing their teeth in the morning and is in a big hurry. And then the partner comes in and says, I just had a disturbing dream.

And then, you know, you can either turn toward your partner and say something like, "I'm in a real big hurry, but what'd you dream?" And then you get a sort of a rundown of the dream. And then later on you think about it and then you talk about it at dinner. Or you can just say, "well, you know, I'm in a big hurry, I really can't talk about this."

It's not that turning away is necessarily hostile, it's just that over time there is a characteristic either of turning toward or turning away. So, couples who are heading for divorce, you know, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning away from one another. And couples whose marriages are going very well, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning toward one another.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman. He's a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

Let's take a short break, and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

OK, so, to sum up here, you're saying good marriages, they're not about how you handle the big conflicts. They're more about day-to-day life, how you handle day-to-day life, how you handle your affection for each other, your reactions to each other.

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: Now, say someone has pointed out to you that you don't express fondness very clearly. Even if you feel it, you're not verbally expressing it. Say that's just your character type. Is that something that you can really change in a way that's going help your spouse feel more confident about your feelings?

GOTTMAN: One of the things that we work on that's sort of related to this is that, you know, we look at how people resolve problems. It turns out that, you know, when you select a relationship, when you select a person to be close to, you automatically are selecting a set of unresolvable perpetual problems that you'll never resolve.


And that, you know, if you married somebody else or you got into a relationship with somebody else, you'd have a different set of perpetual problems you'll never resolve.

And some couples sort of establish a dialogue with these problems. And actually, it turned out when we analyzed this that about 56 percent of all the problems that couples had were of this kind, where they had a dialogue with problems like he was not as affectionate as she would like. Or, you know, maybe he was a loner and she was very gregarious. Or, you know, he was very neat and she was, you know, really untidy.

This is a problem that they'll have their whole lives together. And some couples kind of come to a peace with that. It's not that they're happy about it. They have a kind of dialogue with it. It's like it's a soccer ball between them that they kick around every now and then.

And there's a lot of acceptance and understanding and humor and amusement about the problem, even though they're actually trying to change it all the time, make it a little better. And that, the thing you described, is very much like that.

And the problem becomes when you get really a lot of pain around these problems. I'll give you an example of this, you know. In this case you get kind of a gridlock situation.

And one example was a husband who wanted to spend more time with his friends. And his wife was very upset about this because what the friends did was they went to topless bars, and he flirted with women. And he couldn't understand why his wife was bothered by that. And this kept being a source of tremendous pain between the two of them.

So, one of the things that we need to do, and we try to do in our workshops and in the therapy, is to move these gridlock conflicts that cause a great deal of pain and suffering to dialogue with perpetual problems.

In other words, the problem doesn't go away, it's never gonna go away. But with marriages that are working well and with longer relationships, long-term relationships, people kind of learn to accept the differences between them and live with them, even though they're still trying to change them slightly and make them better over time.

GROSS: You know, you're talking about the importance of talking about your differences in the relationship. But even the threshold at which you're able and willing to talk about a difference is a difference in the relationship.

GOTTMAN: Absolutely.

GROSS: I mean, often one partner really likes to talk about the relationship and work on the relationship...


GROSS: ... and the other partner hates stuff like that, hates those talks.

GOTTMAN: That's right. Yeah, we even have a name for it. It's called the "pursuer-distancer pattern." And usually...

GROSS: ... that's what I call it -- no.


GOTTMAN: You know, one person pursues the issue and the other one tries to become distance from it.

GROSS: Right. Right.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. And usually it's the woman who is the pursuer and the male who's the distancer. That's usually the situation, although it does vary a great deal.

This is characteristic of most marriages, although the problem gets accentuated when there is a lot of continued hostility in the marriage.

GROSS: Well, when you're working with a couple and one person likes to talk about the relationship and the other person hates to talk about the relationship, what advice do you give the couple about how to deal with talking about the relationship?

GOTTMAN: Usually the one who wants to talk about the relationship wins. You know, it's sort of like a situation like the neater person usually wins in these conflicts about neatness.

The person who has more concerns is usually the one who wins because the important dimension is being able to respond emotionally to your partner and to have some kind of emotional connection.

And what really becomes an issue is if, you know, the person who really wants to talk feels unresponded to and becomes kind of desperate in this attempt to really be understood and to really have a connection, an emotional connection with a partner. So, usually the one who doesn't like to talk about it comes up a bit in, you know, in their willingness to talk about it.

GROSS: Well, you make an interesting distinction between a complaint and a criticism, and the way complaints and criticisms are verbalized. What are the issues there?

GOTTMAN: Well, the difference is that when you complain, you're really talking about something you're upset about, and it's not really kind of a global blaming and attack on your partner's personality. So, if I say to my wife something like, you know, I'm really upset that you talked about your day during dinner and you never asked me anything about my day, that would be a complaint.

But if I then add, you know, what's wrong with you, I mean what kind of a person would do something like that, why do you treat me this way? Then, it's gonna make my partner really defensive. It's kind of like I'm saying, you know, there's something wrong with her character, something wrong with her personality.

And she's gotta say, well, you know, I listen to you a lot of times, and sometimes you don't listen to me. And then it gets very defensive.

GROSS: So, what advice would you have about how to make -- state a complaint without it escalating into criticism that leads to defensiveness and more anger?

GOTTMAN: Well, we have a thing that we teach couples to do which we call "soften start-up." You know, the way they start up a complaint really matters.

One of the things that's real important in this is sort of the way you say things and how you present things.

Like, for example, I could, you know, let's say I've been feeling pretty distant from my wife, you know, I can say you are so emotionally distant from me, you're emotionally unavailable, you know, and I'm fed up with it.

Or I could say, you know, I've really been missing you lately. And you know last week when we were on the couch and we were kissing, how could we do more of that, you know, I really miss that, you know, in our day. We're getting so stressed that we're not really doing that.

So, in a way it really communicates the same thing, but one way of presenting a complaint is pretty flattering...

GROSS: ... yeah. Yeah...

GOTTMAN: ... you know, it's really saying, you know, I want more of you, you know, I really like you, I really want more of you. And the other one's saying, there's something wrong with you. So, they really look for, you know, a way of saying it that softens it, makes the partner less defensive.

GROSS: Do you feel optimistic that people are capable of change and therefore that relationships that are having trouble are capable of being repaired?

GOTTMAN: Yes. I feel very optimistic.

And, I mean, in fact, you know, Terry, I think of myself as very much like the 15th-century Portuguese mapmakers who were mapping the Atlantic Ocean for people like Christopher Columbus. You know, we scientists who study relationships are really like these mapmakers. We're finding that there really are things we can learn about relationships, that, you know, we can develop some kind of a map.

Marriage doesn't come with a manual and babies don't come with a manual, so a lot of what I think is necessary is just education. People have to know things about what's gonna happen to them when they, you know, when they first get married, and then they become parents and they have a baby on their hands, you know.

And 75 percent of all couples after the baby's born, three months after the baby's born, experience a precipitous drop in marital happiness that leads to divorce. Half of all the divorces occur in the first seven years of marriage.

Now, what is it that people can do to buffer themselves from this drop in marital satisfaction? And we know the answer now, particularly for guys. You know, the emotionally intelligent husband is a reality.

And so it seems like men can learn about how to be in relationships. And the relationship can have this knowledge, and I think it can buffer marriages from this, the sort of natural shocks that happen, you know, as people try to have a relationship over time, a close relationship.

GROSS: When do you think it's too late to save a marriage?

GOTTMAN: Well, I think it's too late to save a marriage when the fondness and admiration system is dead, you know. If it's just a glowing ember, we can fan it into a flame. But if it's gone, if people no longer have respect for one another, if there's no affection there, then I don't think there's much you can do.

GROSS: John Gottman, thank you very much for talking with us.

GOTTMAN: Thank you for having me, Terry. I enjoyed it.

GROSS: Dr. John Gottman is the founding director of Marital and Family Institute in Seattle. Our interview was recorded in 1997. He has a new book called, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work."

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: John Gottman
High: John Gottman is the author of the new book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work." As a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and the founder and director of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute, he has studied the habits of married couples in unprecedented detail over the course of many years. His previous book is "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail."
Spec: Women; Families; Lifestyle; Culture; John Gottman

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Why Marriages Succeed and Fail

Date: JUNE 18, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061802NP.217
Head: Battered Women
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Dr. John Gottman, who we just heard from, collaborated with clinical psychologist Dr. Neil Jacobson on a study of the dynamics in relationships in which men batter women. They observed 200 couples in dangerous relationships. Jacobson and Gottman videotaped their fights and monitored their heart rates and other physiological reactions.

The researchers found that there were two types of male batterers. The set they called "cobras" actually became calmer and more focused leading up to a violent incident. The men they called "pit bulls" tended to get more worked up as they became more aggressive.

Dr. Jacobson died of a heart attack early this month while participating in a workshop on domestic violence. He was 50 years old. We're going to remember him and his work with a 1998 interview that he recorded with FRESH AIR guest host Marty Moss-Coane.

He described their technique for observing fighting couples.

NEIL JACOBSON, PROFESSOR OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, CO-AUTHOR, "WHEN MEN BATTER WOMEN: NEW INSIGHTS INTO ENDING ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS": We tried to look at the underbelly of domestic violence as directly as we possibly could, by bringing people into the laboratory and hooking them up to polygraphs and videotaping and coding their arguments. Of course, we didn't allow any violent altercations to occur in the laboratory, but we were there watching as they argued.

And -- and then we followed them over time to see when and under what conditions women would get out of abusive relationships, and we also looked to see if the violence ever stopped.

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: Let's talk a little bit about the study that is the basis of this book. First of all, tell us what kinds of sensors you attached.

JACOBSON: We used a polygraph with the capability of collecting a lot of different kinds of physiological data so that we could look at various channels by which people get excited when they're arguing. And to try and distinguish between fear, sadness, anger and some of the different emotional states that people can't really tell you about with any degree of objectivity. Because they distort the experience shortly after it occurred, because batterers often minimize and distort their experiences to make themselves look more favorable.

The heart rate doesn't lie. And that -- so we were able to, I think for the first time, understand what's going on at the physiological level during these arguments.

MOSS-COANE: So, you're looking at things like heart rate and blood flow and pulse and all the...

JACOBSON: ... blood pressure, sweating, movement -- all of these things. Usually there is a typical response physiologically during an argument. When couples argue, they usually -- their heart rates go up; their blood pressure goes up; they sweat; they get excited physiologically.

And there is this overall arousal that occurs, which is common even among abusive couples and, as you know because you've read the book, we found this quite astonishing phenomenon among 20 percent of the batterers.

MOSS-COANE: Yeah, let me ask you about that. You found that with 20 percent of the batterers, and again this is looking at the sensory, physiological information that you got, that there was actually a decrease in their heart rate when they became aggressive in an argument.

What -- explain what that finding tells us.

JACOBSON: OK, well, it tells us -- it was probably the single most important discovery in the study. If you can try and imagine being in a relaxed state, and then starting to argue -- because we had everybody relax for two minutes...

MOSS-COANE: ... right.

JACOBSON: ... prior to the beginning of the argument. And then we found that among 20 percent of the men, they actually got calmer as they became more aggressive at the behavioral level. So, they looked like they were candidates for a stroke or a heart attack...

MOSS-COANE: So they were yelling and screaming and pointing...

JACOBSON: ... yelling, screaming, pointing, interrupting, belligerent, contemptuous, domineering -- and meanwhile, we're talking about heart rates that are as low as 35 beats per minute and -- and we began to think of them as being sort of like cobras who get very calm as they're about to strike.

And indeed there's literature to suggest that when people calm down during stress and conflict, the function of that calming is to focus your attention. So, why would they want to focus their attention? Well, to maximize the impact of the aggression.

So, we have a group of men who calm down when they get more aggressive in order to maximize the impact of their violence. These are men who are the most severely violent. They're the most emotionally abusive.

They're the ones with long criminal histories going all the way back to adolescence and sometimes earlier. They're more -- they -- almost all of them are psychopaths. They usually have alcohol problems and they also have -- they're also addicted to illegal drugs. And the marriages are remarkably stable -- that is, they don't end very quickly.

MOSS-COANE: Looking at these two different kinds of batterers, what kind of impact did they have on the women -- on their wives? And in terms of their reaction to what he was doing?

JACOBSON: Well, the wives who were married to cobras were more -- much more frightened. They were much less inclined to get out, even though the violence was more severe. They were more depressed and they -- their -- and they suppressed their anger.

Whereas the wives married to pit bulls were much more inclined to take their husbands on, and also much quicker to leave. So that by now, 1998, even though we met these people for the first time in 1990 or 1991, by now virtually all of the women married to pit bulls are out of those relationships, except in those rare instances when the violence actually stopped.

But the cobra wives are very, very reluctant to leave and most of that is because they're afraid to.

MOSS-COANE: For the sake of our discussion and from the research and work that you have done for 25 years, if we're talking about abusive relationships, are we talking about men battering women?

JACOBSON: If you're talking about heterosexual relationships, married or unmarried, battering is almost exclusively something that men do to women and rarely something women do to men. Very, very occasionally you find what we called in our book "Bonnie and Clyde couples," where the violence was -- the battering was truly mutual. But they're rare and they don't come into contact with therapists very often.

Now, you -- you know, you sometimes get couples where that's the way it looks on the surface, but if you probe deeply enough, you find out that the woman is the one who's battered. Of course, you also have gay and lesbian relationships where, indeed, men batter men and women batter women, but we're talking in our study about -- and in our book -- about heterosexual relationships.

MOSS-COANE: Let -- let me try another question on you, because this I have also heard, which is that the woman will goad him and taunt him and yell at him, and then he will finally hit her. How much of that have you observed?

JACOBSON: I've -- we observed the opposite. We observed -- I hope, again, our book puts an end to that myth. First of all, there's nothing that a woman can do to force a man to hit her, except to try to inflict bodily harm on him. So no matter what she were to do to him verbally, that wouldn't be a justification for him using violence toward her, nor would it be the cause of the violence.

Men hit for reasons that have nothing to do with what women do. Now, our research supports that empirically, so we now have proof that that's the case. But even thinking about it logically, you can't force someone to hit you.

We had one example of a wife who said to her husband at a time when he was having trouble getting an erection: "you must be a fag, just like your father." So she was insulting him and insulting his father. Wasn't very nice.

He then punched her in the face and was -- and she called the police and he was arrested and charged with assault. He was guilty of assault despite the fact that what she said wasn't very nice.

In fact, however, it's -- it's not typical for men to hit because women taunt. It's more common for men to hit for reasons that have nothing to do with anything the woman has done.

He walks in the door and he smacks her in the face. She hasn't done anything. Women are violent under very predictable conditions, like when someone is hitting them, they may defend themselves. Male violence is not predictable by anything that the woman does except withdrawing. When the woman withdraws while she's being beaten, that increases the likelihood that the beating will get worse.

MOSS-COANE: Increases the likelihood?

JACOBSON: Increases the likelihood.


JACOBSON: So there's -- there's virtually -- because it annoys him and irritates him and angers him that she's trying to get away. He's not done beating her yet and she should stay and take her beating, according to the man.

But there's nothing that the woman can do to affect the likelihood that he will start hitting her, stop hitting her, hit her harder, or hit her softer except trying to get away, which will typically make the beating worse.

MOSS-COANE: What do you see as the relationship between physical abuse and emotional abuse? Does one naturally lead to the other?

JACOBSON: Well, most batterers, in fact virtually all batterers, are also emotionally abusive. And sometimes as time goes on, they become less physically abusive and more emotionally abusive because emotional abuse takes on the same controlling power that physical abuse has, and it's not against the law.

So it can look like the violence has stopped, but in fact the woman is under control as much as she was when she was being beaten, because the emotional abuse is a reminder that at any moment the physical abuse could resume.

GROSS: We're listening back to an interview with Dr. Neil Jacobson, who died earlier this month. We'll hear more of his conversation with Marty Moss-Coane after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: We're listening back to a 1998 interview with the late Dr. Neil Jacobson about his groundbreaking study of spousal abuse. A study he collaborated on with Dr. John Gottman, who we heard from in the first half of the show.

Dr. Jacobson spoke with FRESH AIR guest host Marty Moss-Coane.

MOSS-COANE: Do people in abusive relationships fight about, argue about what everyone else does? They just express it differently? Or, are there things that they argue about that are distinctively different?

JACOBSON: Well, for the most part, they argue about everything all over the map, but I think -- I think there are a couple of distinctive arguments that batterers and battered women have, and there's a lot of arguing about sex. Because batterers want sex whenever they want it, whether the woman wants it or not. And, that generates conflict. It's not the best -- it's not an aphrodisiac for women when men demand sex, whether women want it or not.

And then there's the issue of jealousy. Jealousy is a very common trait of batterers, and they're made jealous very easily. In fact, I would go so far as to say as that's one of my red flags. We have a chapter in the book where we talk about red flags -- things to stay away from in men. I'd almost like to be able to interview the men, who former clients of mine meet, so I could check out these red flags.

But one of them is jealousy. If -- if the man will not allow his girlfriend, wife, or partner to have friends of the opposite sex, or gets jealous about those friendships -- that's a very bad sign.

MOSS-COANE: Your study shows that there are different kinds of batterers. But what do you say to reports that others have said that batterers often act contrite and apologetic after a beating, and that there tends -- there can be a kind of honeymoon period and flowers and gifts and where he wants to make it up to her. Any evidence of that?

JACOBSON: I think that that phenomenon exists, but I think it's been vastly overstated in the early literature. People sort of glommed onto that finding when Lenore Walker (ph) first published it in the '70s. We found that to be the exception rather than the rule.

Now, you do have some men who -- who don't feel right about the fact that they're batterers. And when I find a man like that, I think that wow, at least I've got someone here who may stop at some point, because it's not consistent with their value system.

That's the -- but that's the -- but the vast majority of men either fake the remorse or it's very, very short-lived and temporary.

MOSS-COANE: In talking about this relationship and in trying to answer the question why a woman stays in an abusive relationship, you found that many don't. And I think that's another myth that has endured -- that the women stay and take it.

JACOBSON: Yes. Yes, I have -- when I -- when I speak to groups of advocates for battered women, I suggest that when they get asked the question: why do women stay? The answer they should give is, they don't. Because that's really the truth, they leave.

It's just a question of how long it takes them to figure out a safe exit because they have to avoid getting killed. They'd like to avoid getting stalked. They'd preferably like not even to be beaten. And it's very difficult and sometimes takes years to orchestrate a safe escape.

And as we know, all too tragically, some of the escapes don't work.

MOSS-COANE: So you're saying that -- that a woman who stays doesn't -- it isn't -- doesn't mean she isn't planning and figuring out some kind of an escape plan.

JACOBSON: Exactly. And it's -- sometimes it takes years to come up with a -- it's not just a safety plan, it's also a plan for financial independence, because a lot of battered women are financially dependent on their husbands. And many of them have children, and they know they're not going to get child support from these men.

So, how are they going to survive and how are their children going to survive without this financial support? So, they have to somehow develop this financial dependence without the batterer realizing that they're developing a safety plan.

It's not easy and it takes a while.

MOSS-COANE: You say that abuse over time can decrease, but it rarely stops. Are you saying that in most of these relationships, they -- they don't exhaust themselves. They don't ever give up. That it's still -- that the -- the, I guess, dynamic, that keeps this relationship so volatile and so dangerous never goes away?

JACOBSON: Well, first of all you have to understand that -- that nobody has really studied couples over the course of an entire lifetime.


JACOBSON: And so we don't really know what percentage of couples actually succeed in developing a normal relationship. But what we do know is that in our sample, we -- it was very rare for the violence to stop, and especially for the violence to stop along with the emotional abuse.

What was more common was for the violence to go underground and be replaced by emotional abuse. And -- and this brought -- essentially put the men beyond the reach of the law, but gave them as much control and power over their wives.

And then -- or we saw the women leave. And so I think what happens is over time, either the violence gradually gets transformed into emotional abuse or it simply continues or the woman gets out. And eventually by 20 years later, by 20 years after we've met them, most of those relationships are resolved -- are dissolved. Either because someone gets killed, usually the wife, but more commonly because she gets out. And she gets out not unscathed, but she gets out.

MOSS-COANE: Well, it's interesting because as you have said, we know a lot more about domestic violence. We know a lot more about abusive relationships. And yet, the problem continues at a fairly scary level. And I'm -- I'm curious about, then, where do we go next? "We" meaning as a culture and people like you that are researching this problem.

JACOBSON: Well, I'll tell you where I'm going next. I'm -- I've put my resources and my energy into strengthening advocacy for battered women. I want to study different methods of advocacy. I'm interested in following women into their next relationships.

I'm interested in helping strengthen the technology that currently exists in advocacy programs. And at the policy level, I'm interested in lobbying for the funding of programs which give women an opportunity to rebuild their lives after they've been through this concentration camp-like experience.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I want to thank you very much, Neil Jacobson, for joining us today on FRESH AIR. Thank you.

JACOBSON: Well, thank you very much for having me.

GROSS: Dr. Neil Jacobson spoke with FFRESH AIR guest host Marty Moss-Coane in 1998 after the publication of his book, "When Men Batter Women." Dr. Jacobson died of a heart attack this month at the age of 50.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Dr. Neil Jacobson
High: Neil Jacobson was a colleague of John Gottman, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington, and a pioneer in the scientific study of marital therapy. He died June 2nd at the age of 50, from a heart attack. Last year he and Gottman co-authored "When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships." The book is based on their decade of research with 200 couples in which they observed the arguments of severely violent couples. Their research shatters a couple of myths: that women batter too, and that women often provoke men into battering them.
Spec: Women; Families; Lifestyle; Culture; Dr. Neil Jacobson

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Battered Women

Date: JUNE 18, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 061804NP.217
Head: Review of "The General's Daughter"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The new movie "The General's Daughter," is based on the bestseller by Nelson DeMille. It stars John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Woods and James Cromwell. Our film critic John Powers says "The General's Daughter" is a distinctly '90's kind of film.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: Hollywood has always made a lot of bad movies, movies that are lazy, dishonest, insulting to the viewer's intelligence. But bad movies have never been as repellant as they are today. Over the last 10 or 15 years, Hollywood has begun routinely putting superstars in life-hating potboilers like "Basic Instinct" and "8mm;" movies brimming with violence and vile sex.

"The General's Daughter" stars John Travolta as Paul Brenner, an Army criminal investigator working undercover at Fort McCallum. One night on the base a woman is raped and murdered. She turns out to be Captain Elisabeth Campbell, the daughter of "Fighting Joe" Campbell played by James Cromwell; a general with huge political ambitions.

And so Brenner is brought in to solve the case along with another Army investigator, Sarah Sunhill, that's Madeleine Stowe, who naturally just happens to be Brenner's ex. Soon, the two are knee deep in a story involving shifty officers, S&M videotapes and the dark secret that links the general to his daughter.

The movie is designed as a vehicle for Travolta, who's increasingly coming to resemble a ham; both in his penchant for overacting and in his ever burgeoning physical appearance. Rather than enter the character of Brenner, a blue-collar bulldog who resents the college educated officers, Travolta plays his scenes with a camp irony that's wholly wrong for a story of rape and murder.

Only five years after his comeback in "Pulp Fiction," this fine actor has already entered what a friend has dubbed, "his Michael Caine decadent period;" strolling through movies and collecting a paycheck. Travolta's lack of conviction infects the other actors.

The sole exception is James Woods as the victim's mentor, Captain Moore; an expert in psychological warfare who enjoys matching wits with Brenner.


JAMES WOODS, ACTOR: Please, sit down.

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Did you work together on a daily basis?

WOODS: Absolutely.

TRAVOLTA: Did you play together?

WOODS: What a truly excellent question. You see, here at CIOPS (ph) that's one of the things that we teach -- threatening quietly. Think of the echoes inherent in those four simple words, "did you play together?" Did you go out with her? Did you love her? If you did, did you love her so much that you murdered her?

TRAVOLTA: I meant did you play golf or tennis or checkers or something.

WOODS: No, you didn't.

TRAVOLTA: No, I didn't.

WOODS: So, now, we both know we're smart guys. Do you think I'm involved in this?

TRAVOLTA: One way or another, yes I do.

WOODS: Then it wouldn't it behoove me to retain the services of an attorney? I know a good one.

TRAVOLTA: Two problems there. First, the obvious; there are no good ones. Second, you're not a civilian, Colonel, you're in the Army. You have no rights to an attorney. You have no right to remain silent. And if you don't cooperate I may have to put you in jail, and that would make me feel bad.

POWERS: "The General's Daughter" was directed by Simon West, whose debut was the cartoonish action picture, "Con Air." Here, he seems to think he's tackling deeper issues like misogyny and loyalty to the military.

Unfortunately, West is one of that new breed of filmmakers you might call post-human, because nothing about his work suggests that he grew up on Earth among human beings. Rather, he seems to have been reared in some orbiting bubble where he learned about life through watching commercials.

He shoots the military base like the set for a beer ad, and even though his story is about serious matters: rape, murder, women in the military; he doesn't have a clue how real people would respond to such things. The movie's tone is grotesquely wrong.

Moments after Brenner and Sunhill first see Captain Campbell's dead body spread-eagled in the mud the two are cutely bantering like the stars of a romantic comedy. What's oddest about all this is that West seems to think he's making a feminist film.

There's even a legend at the end explaining that there are now 200,000 women in the military. Trouble is, West's style is all macho bluster. Rather than show respect for the dead Captain Campbell, West exploits her suffering.

Her rape is portrayed as a lurid opera, bits of which are constantly replayed. And her lifeless body fares no better. West treats it like a museum piece, bathing it in aestheticized light and shooting it from all angles so we can enjoy the geometric pattern of her white flesh against the ground.

He dehumanizes her body more than the murderer, who is at least acting from a kind of passion. There's no feeling at all in "The General's Daughter," whose closing credit sequence is a triumph of jaunty cynicism.

After the revelation of military dishonor; after the deaths and dark secrets; after the torture and gang rape the movie ends with cheery footage of Travolta putting on shades like Chilly Palmer (ph) in "Get Shorty," and driving around to a bouncy pop tune happy as a clam.

Perhaps he's expecting a sequel.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for "Vogue."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: John Powers
High: John Powers reviews "The General's Daughter."
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; John Powers

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Review of "The General's Daughter"
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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