Jekyll and Hyde or “Who is this Guy?”—Battered women's interpretations of their abusive partners as a mirror of opposite discourses (2022)

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Article preview Women's Studies International Forum Synopsis Introduction Section snippets Literature review Analytical framework Material and method Jekyll and Hyde—Images of abusers in informants descriptions Discussion References (64) “Why doesn't she just leave?”: A descriptive study of victim reported impediments to her safety Journal of Family Violence A pragmatic view of thematic analysis And I went back: Battered women's negotiation of choice Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Why battered women do not leave, part 2. External inhibiting factors—Social support and internal inhibiting factors Trauma, Violence & Abuse The abusive male seeking treatment: Jekyll and Hyde Family Relations Framing the victim: Domestic violence, media, and social problems Coverage of domestic violence fatalities in newspapers in Washington State Journal of Interpersonal Violence An introduction to social constructionism Voices of strength and resistance: A contextual analysis of women's responses to battering Journal of Interpersonal Violence Understanding women's responses to domestic violence Qualitative Social Work Neuropsychological correlates of domestic violence Violence and Victims Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics Masculinities Socioeconomic predictors of intimate partner violence among White, Black and Hispanic couples in the United States Journal of Family Violence Violence against wives: A case against the patriarchy The abusive personality Violent men: Ordinary and deviant Journal of Interpersonal Violence Discourse and Cognition Clinically abusive relationships in an unselected birth cohort: Men's and women's participation and developmental antecedents Journal of Abnormal Psychology Separationer och mäns våld mot kvinnor [Separations and men's violence against women] Why does she leave? The leaving process(es) of battered women Health Care for Women International Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language Emotions as motivational states European Review of Philosophy Wife-battering: A systems theory approach Loving to survive: Sexual terror, men's violence and women's lives Who are those guys? Toward a behavioral typology of batterers Violence & Victims Getting out: Live stories of women who left abusive men På jakt efter kjønnede betydninger The personality correlates of men who abuse their partners: A cross-validation study Journal of Family Violence The violences of men: How men talk about and how agencies respond to men's violence to women Cited by (14) A Mixed-Method Approach to Understand Themes of Love in Victims’ Dismissals of Civil Protection Orders Why Does He Do It? What Explanations Resonate During Counseling for Women in Understanding Their Partner’s Abuse? Stories of Backlash in Interviews With Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in Sweden Representation of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in Swedish News Media: A Discourse Analysis Recommended articles (6)
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Women's Studies International Forum

Volume 33, Issue 2,

March–April 2010

, Pages 81-90

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Synopsis

In this qualitative study with 22 Swedish women who have left abusive heterosexual relationships, the informants' interpretations of their abusers as ‘Jekyll and Hyde‘ are analysed against the background of two opposite discourses: the pathology/deviance discourse and the feminist/normality discourse. Complex mixes and combinations of understandings were found in the informants' interpretations, which were, however, dominated by conceptualisations traceable to the pathology/deviance discourse. During the analysis of the material a third image emerged, beyond Jekyll and Hyde, i.e. the abusers as ‘hurt boys’.

Introduction

Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886 and was a major success. The story of the well-reputed Dr. Jekyll, occasionally transformed into the vile and violent Mr. Hyde, has since been reprinted numerous times and portrayed in several different ways on the stage and in films. “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a metaphor to describe a duality of, or a transformation from, good to bad. It has been noted that this metaphor is commonly used by abused women when describing the abusers (e.g. Enander, 2009, Goetting, 1999, Zink et al., 2006). This article aims at investigating formerly battered women's descriptions and conceptualisations of the men who once subjected them to violence. The Jekyll and Hyde metaphor is present here, as is the related question “Who is this guy?”; is he “really” Dr. Jekyll or “really” Mr. Hyde?1

Discourses on violence against women and on violent men are also reflected in women's conceptualisations of their abusers. The focus of this study is on how the victims of male-to-female intimate partner violence interpret and describe the perpetrators and how these interpretations mirror different discourses on violence against women and on violent men. This supplements previously existing literature by connecting the discursive with the cognitive, important since women's conceptualisations of their abusers may influence the choices they make in the wake of violence.

Sociologist Howard (1991/2006, p 1) describes how social psychology during the twentieth century circled round “the three poles of behavior, cognition and affect” with emphasis on behaviour, cognition and emotion in turn. Currently, social scientists have turned their attention to discourse. The interconnections between these domains are many and complex. However, of the three “poles” mentioned by Howard, discourse is arguably closest related to cognition. According to Burr (1995, p 48), discourse “refers to a set of meanings, metaphors, representations, images, stories, statements and so on that in some way together produce a particular version of events” and there may, further, be many different and varying discourses covering the same “event”, or phenomenon. The concept of discourse, used mainly by social constructivists, bears a resemblance to what cognitive sociologists, like Zerubavel (1997) calls “thought communities”. Though differing in many other ways, social constructionists and cognitive sociologists equally stress that we do not think as mere individuals: our perceptions and conceptualisations are informed by collective and overarching ways of describing the world (e.g. Edwards, 1997, Fairclough, 1995, Zerubavel, 1997). This does however not imply any clear-cut or direct pathway. As social agents, individuals may not only reproduce discourses, but actively make use, shape, contrast and reconstruct them in different ways (Fairclough, 1995). Thus, when battered women's interpretations of their abusers are described as “mirroring” two overarching discourses on violent men, what is meant is that traces of these discourses are found in the repertoire of tools women use to interpret their abusers and understand their experiences of being abused.

Women's conceptualisations of their abusers, i.e. their cognitions, are further related both to emotion and action. Emotion sociologists like Hochshild, 1983/2003, Katz, 1999, Scheff, 1990 forward that cognition and emotion and are deeply entwined. Hochshild (1983/2003) regards emotion as a signal that informs us of our position in the world and in relation to other people. But she emphasises that this signal is not a simple representation of an “objective” reality: any apprehension of a situation, emotional or not, is based on prior expectations—i.e. cognitions—that are socially shaped.

Emotion further entails, according to Hochshild, an orientation to action. Emotion is actually, she claims, “our experience of the body ready for an imaginatory act” (Hochshild, 1983/2003, p.230). Psychologist Frijda (2002) similarly poses a strong relation between emotion and action. Emotions are motivational states, claims Frijda, that “impel the person to undertake actions of a certain type, with a certain aim” (Frijda, 2002, p. 11). Both Hochschild and Frijda emphasise however that the connection between emotion and action is not a causal, nor a simple one. Culture is present also here; Frijda posits that whether one will act in line with the particular “content” of a feeling, is dependent on whether this line of action has ideological (or, phrased differently, discursive) support.

Three images are investigated in this article: the abusive man as Jekyll or Hyde or as a “small boy”. The first two images are joined together in the classic metaphor recurrently used by battered women in this and other studies. The third materialised during the analysis as an image transcending Jekyll and Hyde. The analysis puts these images in relation to two overarching discourses on violence against women and violent men.

Section snippets

Literature review

Women's experiences of and responses to intimate partner violence are portrayed in an extensive amount of literature (e.g. Baker, 1997, Campbell et al., 1998, Cavanagh, 2003, Moe, 2007). How women describe such experiences has also been a focus of attention, with emphasis on language and narratives (Lempert, 1994, Lempert, 1996, Loseke, 2001). Lempert (1996) found that the women in her study were struggling to find ways to recount their experiences of living with abusive men. The language

Analytical framework

Since men's violence against women became an acknowledged social problem in the 1970s, several different frameworks—within and across academic disciplines—have been used to explain and understand the phenomenon. Neurobiologists and psychiatrists have discussed the pathology of the batterer's brain and personality (e.g. Cohen et al., 1999, Ehrensaft et al., 2004). Psychologists and psychoanalysts have focused on the batterer's—and at times the battered's—malfunctioning family of origin and

Material and method

This article is based on a qualitative interview material with Swedish women who have left abusive men. A total of 22 informants, in two different groups, were interviewed; the material consists of 47 interviews. The interviews were conducted at places chosen by the informants: in their homes, at the university or at public libraries. All interviews except one were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. One informant declined tape-recording; extensive notes were taken instead. Confidentiality

Jekyll and Hyde—Images of abusers in informants descriptions

Kind, warm, considerate, charming, humorous, empathic and exciting were words commonly used by the informants to describe the man they first met. The description of having been “seen” by this man, i.e. perceived and appreciated just as one “is”, was also recurrent. In accordance with the Jekyll/Hyde metaphor, informants talk about falling in love with Jekyll, not Hyde, and that the duality of the abuser becomes apparent later. As Malin put it:

I mean, it's not like you meet a violent man and say

Discussion

During the last two decades, feminist advocacy, activism and theory development concerning men's violence against women has been evolving rapidly and has profoundly challenged earlier research and practice, which were dominated by pathology/deviance understandings. In Sweden the 1998 government proposition entitled Protection of Women's Integrity (Proposition 1997/98:55) was a milestone in the evolvement of public awareness and institutional responses to violence against women. The proposition,

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  • Cited by (14)

    • Offending competency and coercive control in intimate partner violence

      2015, Aggression and Violent Behavior

      Citation Excerpt :

      As these women are likely to have experienced severe violence, it is also likely that the men they described fit within the coercive controlling or generally violent groups. In a qualitative study of 22 Swedish survivors of domestic violence, Enander (2010) identified the dual identity that abusive men have both within their relationship with their victims, and also across their relationships with victims and others. Perpetrators were described as being sociable, charming, likeable, charismatic, talented and sensitive, and this identity was identified as what had drawn women to them at the start of the relationship.

      This paper considers some of the ways in which intervention approaches for perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) might be enhanced through the explicit consideration of the offense process. It is suggested that those who are experts in perpetrating this type of violence routinely use coercive controlling violence in intimate relationships. This group, for whom violence is instrumental, are not only likely to be at highest risk of offending, but also the most difficult to treat. They are more likely to have long developmental histories of violence, hold entrenched attitudes, and utilize knowledge about the effects of intimidation to avoid detection. It is suggested that specific consideration of what is known about the causes and correlates of IPV in those who follow this approach-explicit pathway can improve the outcomes of current perpetrator behavior change programs.

    • Blaming violent men-A challenge to the Swedish criminal law on provocation

      2014, Women's Studies International Forum

      Citation Excerpt :

      Violence is instead viewed as a choice and as a means of achieving, aspiring for, or maintaining power and control. Violence is comprehended as functional in that it for example may end an undesired argument, prove that the violent man deserves ‘respect’, or hold women in relationships (Dobash & Dobash, 1998; Enander, 2009). Such a feminist discourse will find it difficult to influence criminal law, however, because of the current notions of provocation and culpability.

      Feminists have long criticized how provocations narrative of a woman ‘asking for it’ functions as a legal ‘abuse excuse’ for violent men and confirms their rationalizations and justifications for violence. This article aims to challenge a particular aspect of provocation in Swedish criminal law—namely, a tendency to individualize and subjectivize culpability in a way that suggests that the individual male perpetrator's specific understanding of his violence should be the perspective from which to understand and judge his violence. Criminal legal culpability is approached as an important aspect in the relationships between gender, power, and violence, and the author argues that the notion of culpability should be changed in two respects. The tendency to regard emotions as ‘factual’ should be replaced by an evaluative view on emotions and men's responsibility for their emotional responses to women should be judged by acknowledging how values and reasons intersect with power relations.

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