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Unclenching Our Fists
Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence

Author(s): Sara Elinoff Acker

This book features eleven first-person stories of men from diverse class and racial backgrounds who have made a long-term commitment to end their physical and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors. These men speak frankly about the abuse they inflicted on their families, what it took to get them to face themselves, and how they feel about the damage they have caused. All participated in violence intervention programs, some for as long as ten years. To put a face on violence and to encourage activism for reform, most of the eleven have allowed their photos and real names to be used in the book.

Surrounding this material are chapters that provide context about the disputes among researchers about whether batterer intervention programs work (only a small number of batterers renounce their abuse) and chapters that address the reactions of partners to these stories. "When the Man You Love is Abusive" is designed to caution women not to be manipulated by accounts of change and to outline the stages men need to pass through in the long process of becoming accountable. "The Last Word: Voices of Survivors" ends the book with a focus group discussion in which former abuse victims and advocates respond candidly to the men's stories.

Biography of Author(s)

Sara Elinoff Acker has been an activist in the battered women's movement since 1985. She worked in shelter programs in Northern Vermont and Western Massachusetts and in 1992 started the partner contact program at Men Overcoming Violence (MOVE) in Amherst. Acker became a certified batterer intervention group leader in 1996 and ran groups for abusive men for over ten years. She now works as a psychotherapist in private practice.


  • "Unclenching Our Fists offers rare insight into hearts and minds of men who choose non-violence. Now more than ever, we need these stories and wisdom to point us in the direction of solutions. I'm inspired by the courage of the women who spoke up, the men who listened, and the author for bringing these stories to our attention."
    --Lonna Davis, Director, Children and Youth Program, Futures Without Violence
  • "In Unclenching Our Fists, Sara Elinoff Acker recounts her remarkable journey from domestic violence victim advocate to batterer intervention counselor as a way to introduce readers to one of the key lessons her experience taught her: abusive men can--and do--change their behavior if they have the courage, and will, to do so. The stories she shares provide powerful evidence of this. Unlike so much else written about men behaving badly, this book is inspiring--and hopeful. It should be widely read."
    --Jackson Katz, author of The Macho Paradox and creator of the documentary film Tough Guise