Who Are the Abusers?

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A profile of men who batter.

Jealousy

Men who batter almost routinely accuse their partners of having other sexual relationships. Slight evidence is sufficient to fire their imagination. Such intensely irrational jealousy may arise from the man’s own insecurities and projection. He may be having sexual liaisons outside their primary bond himself. Objectification of women is also a contributing factor.

Control and Isolation of Partner

Perpetrators of domestic violence will go to extreme lengths to isolate and control their partners.

Jekyll and Hyde Personalities

Men who have a problem with violence exhibit drastic personality changes. Much of the time, they are gentle and loving husbands and fathers. This is the personality with which the woman fell in love originally and continues to love. Periodically, sometimes in rather predictable cycles, he seems to change into an ogre. Some men display their Dr. Jekyll side to the public consistently. Mr. Hyde emerges only at home. This is doubly treacherous to the partner because others do not believe her when she speaks of monstrous acts.

Explosive Temper

Almost trivial happening such as failure to balance a checkbook or burning the toast can trigger a beating. In other cases, there is no apparent precipitating event. Many women have been pulled from bed while sleeping soundly and beaten. A frequent response of the victims is to attempt to be the perfect wife and mother. An oft-repeated lament is, “I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.”

Projection

A man who batters is a master at blaming other people and external events for his own behavior. A lifelong pattern of avoiding the consequences for his behavior effectively limits his sense of personal responsibility for his destructiveness as well as suppresses any motivation for change. The partner becomes a surrogate punching bag. Therefore, when a battered woman says, “He needs me,” she is right in one sense. If he can project his faults onto her, thereby not having to deal with them himself, he is able to perpetuate his own blameless state.

Verbal as Well as Physical Abuse

An enormous amount of verbal abuse accompanies physical abuse. A barrage of derogatory labels are heaped upon the victim. Mind games are rampant. Some verbal abuse is less obvious to the abused party. It can be so subtle that the woman is unable to identify the intent of the words. She accepts this judgment that her housekeeping is sloppy, her childcare lax and she is a hopeless, unappealing drudge. Her self-esteem slips even lower.

Denial

“I didn’t hit her,” or, “I just pushed her a little bit,” are almost universally uttered denials. Sometimes awareness of his own behavior is so totally repressed that he will notice his partner’s injury that he inflicted the previous evening and ask, “What happened to you?” Indeed, one of the most crucial aspects of treatment for men who batter is to help them get in touch with their violence. When they acknowledge the truth of their past behavior, they may encounter within themselves a backlog of guilt and revulsion of themselves so overwhelming that they either fall into depression or regress into deeper denial.

Cycle of Violence and Contrition

Often it seems that the male who batters purposely is trying to drive away his partner. When he succeeds, he will go to great lengths to retrieve her. He may abduct the children, cry real tears, bring flowers, promise to go to counseling every day, vow to stop drinking, and tell her that he needs her and can’t survive without her. These actions are very convincing. Each time she leaves and then returns, the cycle escalates. The violence becomes more severe and the contrite state becomes craftier. She, sadly, reinforces his behavior by believing him and attempting to resume life with him.

Below are some characteristics that might identify a potential batterer or abuser:

•Extreme dependence on relationships.

•Rationalization of his/her own violence, denial of the severity of the abuse or denial that the abuse occurred at all.

•Rigid sex roles, believes men are superior and should be in charge of women.

• Impulsive in decision-making.

•General possessiveness and jealousy, which can reach pathological levels.

•Focuses on fear of losing partner, often imagines partner is having an affair.

•Not open to hearing options or rational explanations.

•Tries to isolate partner from friends, family, and co-workers.

•Difficulty in identifying and expressing feelings and oppression of emotions.

•Sees violence as a problem solver and tension release

•May be mystified that the law should object.

•May not feel guilty or ashamed, minimizes or denies the abuse.

•May have affairs.

•Witnessed/experienced family violence while growing up

•Unrealistic expectations of self, partner, family, etc.

•“Jekyll and Hyde” personality.

•Impulsive with explosive personality, flies into rages unexpectedly.

•Rigid style of demanding and controlling behaviors.

•Sees only short-term horizons, ignores/doesn’t see long-term consequences of abusive behavior.

•Personality disorder(s).

•Criminal record.

•Sometimes becomes more abusive when the partner is pregnant or shortly after she gives birth.

•May display addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, overeating, gambling).

•Puts blame on spouse/companion and accepts little responsibility for own behavior.

•Is extremely manipulative.

•If in counseling, is primarily interested in keeping partner in the relationship, not in changing self.

•Will end counseling as soon as partner returns or a new relationship is established.

•Without counseling, will repeat the violence since there is no basic change in functioning.

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