First, I’ll note that this entire book comes with a trigger warning, if that’s not obvious from the title. This 2002 book was written by a man who worked directly with abusive men, and includes many case studies and examples of their abuse, their partners’ experiences, and their mindsets. It is not an easy read. I went into this as a survivor of abuse knowing it would not be an easy read and mentally prepared myself, and it was still very tough. This book was extremely validating for me and over a decade later, put some puzzle pieces about my experience into place for me in a way that felt very healing, but it should be approached with full awareness of how upsetting it can be.
Lundy methodically goes through trends in how abusers behave and think, both in general and in specific areas of life: in everyday life, in relationships, as parents, within the legal system, and more. He also includes insight into how and why abusive men are so able to gain allies, leaving the victim feeling that they have no recourse or resources available to them. What was most helpful to me was his descriptions of how abusive men justified their own behavior and how they explained themselves to themselves. He manages to point out that abusers are humans with human thinking flaws without excusing them or placing any real sympathy with them: despite those faults, he repeats multiple times, they CHOOSE to abuse their partners, and that is never excusable.
One flaw I found is hard to fully call a flaw: I appreciate his pointing out that generally speaking, it is men who abuse women. I appreciate him telling women in relationships where they feel unsafe to take men’s claims that they were the one abused in their past relationships with a huge grain of salt. But while Bancroft does lend some time to discussing same-sex abuse, he does seem to hold a general belief that men just cannot be abused by women. I say this is hard to call a fault in the book because in the context of the book, which is meant to be mainly for women who are experiencing abuse, it makes sense to follow this line of thinking. But it might have been worth including some statistics on intimate partner violence done by women. In general, I also think more statistics would have been helpful, even if they were kept entirely at the back of the book so as not to interrupt the flow of useful information and advice.