Chapter Three – Who Are The Batterers?
Just as there is no “typical” victim, there is no “typical” abuser. An abuser may be friendly and outgoing in public. They may be the perfect gentleman or lady among their friends, family or co-workers. Often, when domestic abuse is revealed, friends, family or colleagues are surprised that someone who behaved so respectfully in public could cause so much damage to their loved ones. In fact, this can make it even more difficult for the victims to convince others that there is abuse happening in the household since the abuser is so good at putting on a different face outside the home.
Both men and women can be abusers, although women are more often victims of abuse. Being a victim of abuse in childhood increases the risk of becoming an abuser as an adult. One-third of abusers were abused in childhood and those who are exposed to abuse have higher incidences of depression, alcoholism and sexual maladjustment.
Research shows that abuse that began early in life or that lasted a long time increase the risk that someone who was abused as a child may become an abuser. The abuse could be physical or may be neglect of a child’s emotional and physical needs. Excessive berating of a child is also a form of child abuse that can lead the child to become an abuser as an adult.
Why Men Batter
Too often, people want to know what is “wrong” with someone who commits domestic violence. However, battering is not a mental illness, but is a behavior choice learned over time. It is the extreme expression that men are the dominate sex. Men use abuse to exert power over their relationship and have learned that using violence is the way to exert this power. Often, a batterer grew up in a home where they were physically abused or their mother was abused by their father or the male figure in the home.
Some batterers have substance abuse problems, although most will abuse their partners even if they are sober. One study discovered that 90 percent of batterers have no criminal records and only between five and ten percent are physical with people other than their spouse.
Why Women Batter
There is much debate whether the statistics related to women who batter do so out of violence or as a way to fight back. Statistics show that more than 830,000 men are victims of domestic violence each year. The numbers may be higher as men are more reluctant than women to report abuse.
In some cases, women who battered reported that they resorted to violence in response to something the spouse did that caused them emotional hurt. Other women reported that they were raised in a household where violence was a method used to resolve issues. Often, there is a high level of frustration in the marriage that leads a woman to be violent.
Overall, however, the reason women batter is not much different than why men batter. They need to exert complete control over their partner and resort to violence to do so. In most cases, a woman who batters with no provocation often witnessed domestic violence or was a victim of domestic violence as a child.
6 Early Warning Signs of Domestic Violence
There are six early warning signs to look for that may indicate someone is in an abusive relationship. These include:
- Controlling Behavior – Although almost everyone is on their best behavior early in a relationship, an abuser will show signs that they need total control almost immediately. They may try to make all the decisions or always get their way. They may try to keep the victim from spending time with friends or family.
- Disrespect – An abuser may be disrespectful to wait staff at a restaurant or to the victims friends. The disrespect will begin to move toward the victim, possibly with jokes that demean the abused person or saying things that hurt their feelings.
- Blaming Others – If a partner or date always shifts the blame to others or refuses to accept responsibility for what they do wrong, they may have an abusive personality.
- Quick Commitment – Abusers often try to make a relationship move quickly, pressuring their partner into making a commitment or having sex in order to gain control.
- Negative Attitude Toward Opposite Sex – They may make inappropriate, derogatory jokes or always have negative perceptions about people of the opposite sex. They may make comments like “Women always cheat.” This attitude can be turned on a domestic partner when the abuser becomes frustrated.
- Inconsistency – If someone is doting in public but mean when alone with their partner, they may be abusive. They may have wide mood swings as well. They may tell others how attractive their partner is in a certain dress, yet when alone, tell their partner they look terrible.
Are You Abusive? Warning Signs for the Batterer
Anyone who believes they may be abusing their partner should answer these simple questions. If the answer is yes to any of them, it is possible that they are abusing their partner.
- Do you tell your partner who they can talk to or hang out with?
- Have you called your partner names, criticized them or embarrassed them in front of others?
- Have you ever forced your partner into doing something they didn’t want to do?
- Do you make your partner feel guilty if they don’t do what you want them to do?
- Have you ever interfered with your partner’s work or school?
- Have you ever prevented your partner from seeing their friends or family?
- Do you ever follow your partner when they are not with you?
- Are you overly jealous?
- Do you check up on your partner by listening in on phone calls, frequently question where they have been, call frequently to check up on them or check the mileage in the car?
- Do you blame your partner for everything?
- Do you tell your partner that their fears or concerns are not important or aren’t real?
- Have you ever prevented your partner from leaving by blocking a doorway or holding on to them?
- Have you ever pushed, shoved or hit your partner?
- Is your temper explosive?
- Have you ever threatened to hurt or kill yourself if you partner leaves you?
- Do you force your partner to have sex when they really don’t want to?
- Have you ever damaged or destroyed your partner’s possessions?
- Have you ever threatened to harm your partner, their family, friends, pets or children?
- Does your partner ever seem scared of you?
- Have you ever threatened your partner if they told anyone about your actions?
Ways for Batterers to Stop the Violence
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, there are ways that the abuse can end. The first step is to want to change and be committed to the steps necessary to begin changing. Most batterers need professional help in order to break the cycle of abuse. Because many abusers were abused themselves, it may take the intervention of a licensed counselor to get to the cause of their abusive behavior. There are signs that an abusive partner is making changes in their lives and overcoming their abusive behavior. These include:
- Fully admitting what they have done
- No longer making excuses and blaming others for their actions
- Accepting responsibility and recognizing that their abuse was their choice
- Identifying controlling behavior and attitudes that drove them to be abusive
- Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a long-term project
- Not treating improvements as vouchers to be used should they become abusive again or demanding credit for those improvements
- Being respectful, kind and supportive
- Changing the ways that they handle conflict
- Accepting consequences for their actions
However, if a batterer refuses to admit there is a problem or they continue the cycle of abuse, the only answer may be to get out of the relationship. Leaving an abusive relationship can be as dangerous as the relationship itself, so there are a few tips and guidelines that may help make the transition safer.