What makes a person
abuse? A rough childhood perhaps? A learned behavior maybe? What goes on in the
mind of an abuser? What makes them tick? All of these questions may arise when
working with victims of Domestic Violence or even if you have fallen victim of
In this paper we will refer to our abuser as a man.
Although women can be abusers as well, it is more common that a man will take
on the role of an abuser. For an opening line.. ” I don’t understand how he
could do this, he seemed so normal.” When people think of what an abuser looks
like they think of the media portrayal of a certain race, class (how much money
they make), how many tattoos cover their skin, and how many wife beater shirts
they have in their clothes drawer. All of these have been portrayed in movies
and television conditioning people into thinking this is what all abusers must
look like. In this line of work I have personally experienced that abusers come
in all shapes, sizes, genders and let’s not forget age. From the high school
quarterback star that slaps his girlfriend after the big game for not knowing
every play he made on the field, to the police officer using his power to rape
the women he pulls over, to the preacher you listen to on Sunday mornings who
goes home and forces his wife to have sex with him. There is no set standard to
what an abuser looks like. Evil.. takes the shape of many.
Sometimes we think of an abuser as only being a physical
altercation. A man hit, slapped, or shoved a woman. When in reality there are five
types of abuser, physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial
abuse. All of these stem from a man’s need to have power and control over his
partner. A way to manipulate their partner into getting things that they want
at the time. If we can better learn the characteristics and behavior signs of
an abuser, the help we can give loved ones, friends, or even abuser’s
themselves is endless.
Let’s talk about some characteristics an abuser may have. I
personally think that one of the main characteristics I have seen most is
jealousy. The constant accusations an abuser will use that his partner is
cheating. I have come across many clients who have shared with me that their
abuser would go into their place of work accusing them of sleeping with the men
she worked with. Not only is this an accusation of cheating but it leads to
another form of abuse by controlling.. Stalking. An abuser follows or has
friends and family members follow their partner to check up on them. A potential
abuser may have the characteristics hinting on the abusive behavior that they
may possess. He often blows up at little things; say how much his feelings are
hurt when in actuality he is really angry with his partner. An abuser may
isolate his partner from friends, family, or even having her cut off of social
media claiming that all of these people are “trouble for the relationship”. He
may have self-esteem issues, thinks he is not good looking making him feel
insecure about himself, blame others for his insecurity problems just to make
himself feel stronger and more worthy. Abusers more often than not have an
abusive history. Whether he grew up with it in his home seeing his father be
violent with his mother, or his childhood friend he was close with had abuse in
their family, it could stem from him witnessing violent acts. Often abusers
turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their anger and self-esteem issues.
Abusers can turn into the Jekyll and Hyde scenario and blame their behavior on
their excessive drug use of alcoholism.
So let’s talk about sex, yes sex. Sex is used as a
manipulative way to gain control of a partner whether they are married or not.
Just because you are married does not give a man the right to force himself
upon you and have a just cause for it. Often abusers will use the line “if you
really loved me you would do this for me.” Sickening, there’s no love in abuse.
He may force his partner to “act out” scenes and scenarios that he fantasizes
about and his partner not give any consent to playing the “damsel in distress
or the helpless victim.” He may take things as far as choking his partner to
unconsciousness or binding her to where she cannot fight his advances. I know
all of this sounds far-fetched and horrible but it happens all too often.
How dangerous is an abuser? Is it just a minor jealousy
that he doesn’t want his partner talking to other guys, or is it far more
serious? The abuser may seem harmless at first starting with his jealousy but
it can quickly escalate too many other situations he may handle entirely wrong.
The lethality of the situation all depends on the abuser’s mindset and the
actions he takes when faced with decisions affecting his power and control. Let’s
talk about ten examples of escalating violence when his partner threatens to
leave him or does get a chance to leave. One, he starts threatening suicide. He
is seeking a reaction from his partner trying to make her stay, what will her
for him to subdue his suicidal threat, he is in control. Two, he threatens to
kill his partner, his children, and even pets. At this point he has escalated
from self-harm to potential homicide. Three, he uses weapons, as a threat,
waves a gun around while screaming and shouting at his partner, or holds a
knife and does the same. Four, he claims ownership of his partner. The all too
famous words “if I can’t have you no one can.” Five, he isolates the victim
because he depends on her to organize and keep his life “functioning”. She
cannot leave or he will be lost. Six, the abuser feels as if he is losing his partner.
He turns to threats and violence to make her stay. “If you leave me I’m going
to kill myself.” Seven, a tale tale sign of violence telling his partner he is
escalating. The police have come to the house often because neighbors, family
members or even the victim have called for hearing the domestic violence occur.
It has escalated to where others are seeing the abuse he doesn’t have much
concern for privacy anymore. Eight, all regards to law enforcement, criminal
charges, social and legal consequences goes out of the window. At this point
the severity of the situation has heightened because he no longer is afraid of
jail, prison, or death. Nine, he takes hostages; this can be the partner, kids,
and pets. The abuser has taken the kids and left and threatens their safety
depending on the victim’s choice to stay or leave. Ten, he kills his partner,
himself, the children or the pets. The
control he thought he had is gone.. The victim has tried to flee and he has
lost everything, all power and control so this is the end.
What goes on in his mind? Living with an abuser has no good
possible outcome, you can’t change him. He may be unpredictable, yesterday he
loved his partner wearing makeup, and today he calls her a slut for wearing it.
He blames her for his violent outbursts. “You made me do it.” His partner is
not the blame for his shortcomings. He may redefine the situation, blame people
around him or drugs and alcohol for his behavior. “It was the alcohol talking.”
He makes excuses for the way that he is, “my father hit my mother for less than
what you’re doing.” “I had a rough childhood.”
For whatever reasoning behind it there is help. Many
shelters provide an abuser program working with abusers to see how they tick
and why they abuse. Although these programs don’t ensure that they won’t abuse
again it still helps. Encourage others to read up on characteristics and
warning signs to prevent domestic violence and potentially save some lives.