Title: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Author: Lundy Bancroft, former co-director at Emerge, the nation’s first program for abusive men.
Publisher: Berkley Books
Year published: 2002
Location: The Emerge domestic violence education program Mr. Bancroft worked for is based in Massachusetts but domestic abuse is unfortunately, everywhere.
POV: Non-fiction from the point of view of a domestic abuse counselor.
Kudos: None, but the book is a nationwide bestseller with over 400,000 copies in print.
My Source: I bought the audiobook in 2011.
Purchase link: Amazon (an affiliate link)
The Premise of Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft
1. Domestic abuse is primarily done by men who don’t respect women and believe they must be controlled by any means possible.
2. Domestic abuse can be verbal, emotional, mental, psychological, sexual or physical.
3. Divorced abusive parents abuse further by trying to take custody from the abused mothers, and recruit allies such as new girlfriends to help them do it.
4. Domestic abuse can be cured but not without considerable willingness and effort on the part of the man, and unfortunately, most of them are unwilling to cooperate by actually changing their attitudes toward women.
Characters in a non-fiction book? Well, yes, I can say that. Sure, why not?
Protagonist: Our hero, Lundy Bancroft, counselor for abusive men.
Abusive men: Generally portrayed as selfish, with a sense of entitlement to abuse.
Female partners: They are desperate for peace in their lives.
An inexpensive paperback version of “Why Does He Do That?”
Why Does He Do That?
This is the paperback version of the book and if I read it again, I’d read this version rather than listen to the audiobook.
About that audiobook: a man narrated it, and though I got through it, his condescending tone when talking about the abusers, and dripping sympathy when talking about their female counterparts, I found disturbing. The man speaks clearly and is otherwise a good reader. In my opinion, many men narrating non-fiction audiobooks don’t get the tone right. And trust me, I’m a huge fan of Audible.com where I buy all my audiobooks. I’ve listened to many narrated by men. I think this book is better in the paperback or Kindle versions offered by Amazon.
Besides, as we all know, if you have a paperback book you can write notes in the margins and underline your favorite passages. That’s my preferred way of reading non-fiction, and these days I buy only novels or memoirs as audiobooks.
By the way, my book links are affiliate links, meaning if you use my links to buy a book or anything else on Amazon I’ll get a small commission. This is an important part of how I support myself in my old age so if you buy from these links, it is very much appreciated! I’m giving my honest review of a book I’ve read. No more or less.
Themes in “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft
1. Men who abuse women do so primarily because they subconsciously or consciously believe women are inferior to men and should be subjugated.
2. Men who abuse women are rarely reformed but it is possible if they want to work hard at changing their attitudes.
3. Women who are abused by men need to be realistic about their relationships.
Abusive men I’ve known, and how this book affected me
For clarity, I’ll say that every man I’ve ever been married to or had a long term relationship with has abused me in some way – some more severely than others. However in this review I’m focused on only two of them… my second husband and my last relationship, with a man I wasn’t married to. I left him in 2013. The man who physically abused me the most is not even mentioned except in this one sentence.
Few books have left me with such a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I started to read this book because of my most recent relationship… but the chapters on “Abusive Men as Parents” and “Abusive Men and Their Allies” took me back to an earlier time, when my ex-husband exhibited the behaviors described of using the children as pawns to continue his abuse of me after our divorce, depriving me of custody, lying about me in court, and engaging a woman he lived with to help him in his campaign of abusiveness against me. She may have believed things he said about me, which were untrue. According to Bancroft this is a very common outcome for domestic violence couples with children. For me, the effects of this abuse persist until this day.
My most recent relationship (and probably my last relationship ever) was with a man who abused me verbally (emotionally, mentally, psychologically). That is a horrible thing to have to live through. But the abuse of my ex-husband who charmed the legal system, our religion, his new female friend, and the children to work against me, affected me far worse than just verbal abuse because of the trauma of separation from two of my children. That persists even today because one of those children is apparently so brainwashed she still will not talk to me nearly twenty years later. How does a mother ever get over something like that? The fact is, the pain is never far from me, and a book like this (directly explaining all aspects of such situations) opens the wounds and pours salt on them.
Earlier chapters such as “The Abusive Mentality” did speak to the situations I experienced in the verbally abusive relationship. Lundy Bancroft described accurately how confusing it is for a woman who is verbally abused to try to figure out that what’s happening to her is actually abuse and not just a strange unknown mental disorder her partner is going through. There are different aspects to what’s going on in a verbally abusive situation: psychological abuse, gaslighting, emotional abuse, victim blaming, subjugation and projection are all part of a verbally abusive relationship.
A verbally abusive partner is disrespectful and selfish with an arrogant attitude of entitlement. He believes he has the right to instruct, correct, and verbally punish his female victim. He picks at her shortcomings. He berates, lambasts, and derides her. Any flaw she might have will be brought up in lengthy, irritating diatribes against her, and if she tries to defend herself the abuser immediately uses that to continue his tirade against her, now saying she’s inferior, evil and flawed for trying to fight back in self-defense.
That’s what I experienced, and for many months I tried to stay silent while he raged against me every few days, knowing anything I said would be twisted and used against me in these very long verbal assaults (one to two hours). Later I decided the best course of action was to fight back and call it what it was – which is verbal abuse. I didn’t say it at the time, but it is also emotional, mental and psychological abuse. Things I can live better without.
I admit, for a long time I thought he was simply going insane, or reacting from early childhood abuse, but Lundy Bancroft explains in his book that abuse comes from having a negative attitude toward women – handed down from older male relatives and/or culture cues such as the song, Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones, and many other anti-woman songs, books, movies and television programs that affect the way men think about women. I thought of “Under My Thumb” because this man once told me that was at one time one of his favorite songs because that’s how he wanted his women to be – under his thumb.
About abusive men who take custody from mothers
This video explains what happened to me with my ex-husband, who used his new allies (new female friend, lawyer, the judge, even people in our non-Christian religion, which I’ve since left, who ignored my pleas for help) to take custody and most of my visitation away from me using false allegations. I cannot verbalize these things the way Lundy Bancroft is able to. I’ve never been a good speaker; most of what I do is write. And to express these things while dealing with severe emotional pain and trauma – well, that’s hard for me too.
I wish that someday my daughter who won’t speak to me will wake up and realize that the attitudes or beliefs she picked up about me from my ex-husband and his female partner could very possibly be inaccurate about what I’ve done or what kind of person I really am. My daughter has not spoken to me in about twenty years and will not tell me her reasons for refusing to communicate. She has four siblings who do love me and communicate with me, praise the Lord.
My ex-husband took custody from me using the tactics Lundy Bancroft wrote about in his book, and I’m still defenseless to get my child back – and she’s now 36 years old and don’t you think, she’d know better by now? But no, she’s apparently clinging to misperceptions, because I’m not that bad a person, to deserve to lose the love of one of my children. Her siblings can tell her that, and I’m sure, have told her that.
[By the way, I left that uncaring, non-responsive religion, and am a Christian four years now, and am blessed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. I gave my life to the Lord two weeks after leaving that last abuser – “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” – Psalm 34:18]
A quote from this book about abusive men
The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious. In fact, even among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.” – Lundy Bancroft
About the Author
Lundy Bancroft’s website states he’s an “author, workshop leader and consultant on domestic abuse and child maltreatment.”
Here’s Lundy Bancroft’s Facebook Page.
My opinion of this book
I’m very grateful that Lundy Bancroft took the initiative to write his observations of couples in domestic violence relationships. He took a more lenient tone than other books I’ve read about abusive men. Bancroft believes it is possible for an abusive man to change his attitudes and stop abusing. Many men in his counseling program did that – but more commonly the men refused to change because they liked the charge they got from abusing and controlling women.
On parenting, Bancroft brought up a lot of valid considerations about how the courts and child protective services tend to work with abusive men to continue abusing the women, who are often unable to adequately defend themselves while their former partners are as charming and manipulative as ever in getting others on his side. Many women have lost their children to abusive ex-partners. Ask me, I know.