Cover image for Intimate violence : attacks upon psychic interiority
Intimate violence : attacks upon psychic interiority
Scalia, Joseph.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 164 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1450 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC569.5.F3 S27 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Traditional analyses of domestic battery often point to the batterer's need for power and control to explain patterns of violent behavior. Offering a nonjudgmental and compassionate view of the interior life of the batterer, Intimate Violence moves beyond this explanation and transforms our understanding of the psychic origins of abuse. The book is divided into three main sections. The first assesses psychoanalytic understanding of the inner mechanisms of the batterer's violent behavior toward close family members, pointing to disruptions in the abuser's "narcissistic equilibrium." The second section looks more broadly at the ideas of "batterer" and "victim," and the ways these categories--and the social stigma and support accorded respectively--may impede healing and resolution. The third section addresses various treatment methods that promise permanent changes in batterers' behavior.

Intimate Violence also deals frankly with the dynamics of the therapist/client relationship in battery cases, particularly transference and countertransference. How do therapists deal with feelings of revulsion for the batterer's behavior, or for the batterer him- or herself? How do they resist the very human urge within themselves to punish their clients? Scalia persuasively argues that these issues subtly undermine counseling, causing resistance to develop within both parties, and that a new approach to therapy is needed. His analysis suggests that "emotional communication" in the context of prolonged and deep psychoanalysis enables patient and practitioner alike to transcend cycles of recrimination and defensiveness.

Author Notes

Joseph Scalia is a psychoanalyst who has written articles for the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Modern Psychoanalysis

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A society terrified of youth violence requires effective guidelines for treating batterers. Traditionally, a therapist sympathizes with abused victims and blames the batterer for dominating, overpowering, and controlling others. This approach contradicts the fact that most batterers suffered early abuse and ignores therapists' revulsion at and fear of the batterer's rage. Treatment of batterers' early trauma is notably absent from previous studies, e.g., Domestic Violence in the Lives of Children, ed. by Sandra Graham-Berman and Jeffrey Edleson (CH, Dec'01), and Violence against Children in the Family and Community, ed. by Penelope Trickett and Cynthia Schellenbach (CH, Dec'98). Scalia (a practicing psychotherapist) transforms the reader's understanding of psychic origins of battering and enlists compassion for the batterer's early trauma. Noting that the psychic origins emerge from a rupture in narcissistic equilibrium, affect regulation, experience of self, and identification, the author argues that when situations re-evoke these early traumas, violence erupts to contain a fear of annihilation and falling apart. Furthermore, society, law, and therapists' persecution of the batterer increases resistance to therapy. In a scholarly discussion of powerful clinical cases in psychoanalysis, Scalia examines the need to establish an empathic alliance with the patient. Useful to upper-division undergraduates through faculty, professionals, and general readers. S. M. Valente University of Southern California

Table of Contents

Part 1 Understanding the Batterer
1 Affect Regulation and Narcissistic Equilibrium
2 The Experience of Self and Other
3 Identification with the Aggressor
Part 2 The Politics of the Batterer-Treatment Movement
4 Political Versus Clinical Determination of Abuse and Other Associations
5 Our Unwitting Persecution of the Batterer and Other Facile Conveniences
Part 3 Treatment
6 Countertransference
7 Transference
8 Joining Techniques
9 Working Through: A Synthesis