Battered Husbands Often Afraid to Admit Abuse

ByABC News

Feb. 7, 2003 -- Tawny Kitaen and Chuck Finley's marriage was a sizzling example of beauty meets brawn in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition four years ago. She was all legs and curves, with a mane of sleek, sexy hair. He was an all-star baseball pitcher for the California Angels and then the Cleveland Indians.

But their high-flying marriage suffered a scandalous breakdown. There were allegations of domestic violence and acts of brutality with a bizarre twist. Though Finley is a strapping 6-foot-6-inch-tall pro athlete and Kitaen is just 5 feet 7 inches tall, she was arrested for beating him.

Last April, Kitaen was charged with spousal abuse after a nasty fight in the couple's car. She allegedly kicked him in the arm and leg and twisted his ear. At one point, she allegedly pressed her high-heeled shoe on his foot as it was on the accelerator.

Kitaen initially entered a not guilty plea, but agreed to 52 weeks of anger management in an effort to get the charges dropped. Finley has filed for divorce.

An Equal-Opportunity Crime

The couple's story left many wondering: How could a woman batter a man? It happens more often than you think.

Although women are most often the victims of domestic violence, surprisingly, men are battered by their partners more than 800,000 times a year, according to surveys cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I would do anything — sock 'em, put my hands around their neck, choke 'em," said Angela Corey, a serial abuser.

Meeting Corey today, she comes across as a bubbly, wholesome Sacramento housewife. "I'm adored by so many people. People think I'm the greatest thing in the world," she said.

It's hard to imagine, but she said she was once downright vicious, battering 15 different boyfriends. She's telling her story now to help dispel some of the common myths about women and violence.

The conventional wisdom is that women who are involved in domestic violence are acting in self-defense. Corey says that's not always the case.

She recalled the first time she abused a boyfriend. She said it was sparked when she didn't get her way. "So I reacted. I chased him with knives," she said.

She said her anger was often triggered by not getting her way, or being called names, or getting in an argument over something silly. She said she felt the need to get her point across. "And to get it across, I used my fist," she said.

Corey said she felt that her boyfriends had caused her to act abusively.

Like most women who batter, Corey said she learned to be angry early in life. She said she was molested by a trusted adult as an adolescent.

Flashing back on that same rage at being violated, Corey said, may have contributed to one final, horrifying assault when she and a boyfriend had come home from a bar with a couple of friends.

She said her boyfriend was making a sexual advance, and pushed her down on a bed. When she got up and he tried to kiss her, she bit him hard. "I felt something in my mouth, and I spit it out, and it was his lip," she said.

Corey said, at the time, she wasn't remorseful, or sad, or sorry for what she'd done. She was simply scared about going to prison.

Women Batterers Often View Themselves as Victims

Untangling the roots of their rage is part of what Corey and other women do in a batterers class, but they don't get a lot of sympathy for their troubles. "They come into this program and they're absolutely convinced that what they did was justified. … They make an awful lot of excuses," said Claudia Dias, an attorney and psychologist, who runs batterers programs for men and women. Angela Corey attends one of her classes.

Dias thinks women who batter are much harder to treat than their male counterparts. According to Dias, female batterers "start from a place where everyone sees them as victims." She said men tell the very same stories of childhood abuse, yet men are never excused for hitting women. Women, on the other hand, have gotten just the opposite message.

"Look what's on television. It's a comedy when a woman slaps a man," Dias said. Our culture is replete, she said, with subtle and not-so-subtle permission for women to hit men. As a result, men are subject to a different set of rules. Many don't hit back, and very few call for help.

According to a controversial, landmark study co-authored by Richard Gelles, a University of Pennsylvania dean and psychologist, women are seven times more likely than men to be injured in domestic violence, but women also hit men as often as men hit women. Gelles said both genders do it because they want control.

Gelles said, "Men will often batter because they want to be left alone. An awful lot of the women I interviewed who use fairly extreme forms of violence, including stabbing their husbands and boyfriends, said very specifically and consistently, 'It was the only way I could get him to put the paper down and pay attention to me!'"

Angela Corey's case illustrates Gelles' point. "You start to yell and scream and you're not getting their attention, so you kind of vent out and hit them," she said.

Taking It Like a Man

It seems incredible that it took 15 boyfriends and countless acts of violence before Corey was reported to the police, but several men who talked with 20/20 say they know firsthand how it happens. Whether they've suffered a single brutal incident, or years of battery, men rarely call for help.

They risked ridicule to share their side of the story with 20/20.

Most men in this situation, such as Jerry Miranda, have a hard time convincing friends, colleagues, even the legal system that they are victims of domestic violence.

The disbelief continued up until the day that his wife, who had battered him for 25 years, tried to kill him at work. She came at him with a knife, and struck him so hard with it that she actually bent the knife blade in his shoulder.

He said it took four men to hold her back, and that she threatened to return and kill, not only him, but everyone he worked with as well. She is now serving 10 years in prison for attempted murder.

Equal Time for the Crime

The only way to stop female batters, many men believe, is to hold them just as accountable for violence as men.

Angela Corey agrees. She said, "Going to jail made me stop. … I'm telling you, reality hit me that day like nothing. Because I thought, this is forever."

Corey said she swore off violence the day she went to jail. But it took months of counseling before she had a true change of heart. She never thought what she was doing was wrong until she started her classes.

"I learned that it's a lot easier than I think it is to control my temper," she said.

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