Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women sending over 1 million every year to doctor’s offices or emergency rooms. This violence isn’t occurring from the hands of a stranger but from the hands of the man that has said I love you. In view of the recent domestic violence stories in the news I decided to write this article and take you inside the mind of men that abuse. I want to share the knowledge and experiences that I’ve had facilitating groups and counseling over 1,000 men that have abused their intimate partners. In all that we have seen or experienced we know that there are too many women and men dying, people being injured, far too many children growing up in violent homes to later become victims or abusers themselves.
In this story I will share with you what constitutes Domestic Violence, the national stats, the cycle of violence, the five types of abuse, the profile/characteristics of men that abuse, the DSM-IV diagnosis of abusers/batterers, treatment that works for this population.
What Is Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence is when a partner physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abuses their intimate partner by exerting power and control over them. Domestic violence occurs in all cultures, races, religions, classes and same sex relationships. We find that domestic violence is perpetrated by men and women, 95% of reported domestic violence cases are men abusing women and 5% of reported domestic violence cases are women abusing men.
- Every 12 seconds a woman is abused by her intimate partner in the US.
- 37% of pregnant women are battered during pregnancy, including blows to the abdomen.
- There are more animal shelters than there are shelters for victims of Domestic Violence in the US.
These numbers are staggering and remember this is only what is reported to the police, imagine how many more women are being abused but never report it to the police. In my career that has spanned over 10 years working with batterers/abusers I’ve seen these numbers grow.
The Cycle of Violence
Phase 1: Tension building (In this phase there is usually tension building from the batterer/abuser and there is usually an argument)
Phase 2: Explosion (this is where the assault happens)
Phase 3: Honeymoon Phase (this is where the batterer/abuser apologizes for his behavior buying the victim gifts or flowers)
The cycle of violence will not end until one partner leaves or seeks treatment.
There are five types of abuse and they usually start with the less noticeable first and become more obvious as the abusive relationship continues.
The Five Types of Abuse
- Emotional (killing pet, playing mind games)
- Verbal (calling names)
- Technological (GPS system /Face book sabotage)
- Sexual (forcing sex while sleep or based on the bible)
- Physical (killing, punching, choking)
I’m sure now you asking so who are these men, will I know that he is an abuser by looking at him, what makes them tick and what signs can I look for in my partner to determine if he is an abuser/batterer. I will tell you that no you can’t tell if someone is a batter/abuser by looking at them but there are some tell-tale signs and behaviors. So looking deeper into the mind of the abuser I want to now provide you with a few of the behaviors that are typical for batterers.
Profile of an Abuser/Batterer
- Jealousy (questioning her constantly about whereabouts, and jealous of time she spends away from him).
- Controlling behavior (I’ve had clients who’s victim couldn’t get a job, leave the house or bathe without his permission)
- Isolation (Makes partner move away from family and friends so that she depends on him solely for support.)
- Forces her to have sex against her will (I’ve had several clients who forced their partners to have sex with their friends and forces sex when she is asleep.)
- Holds very rigid gender roles (Believes that her job is just to cater to him, he is the “king of the castle.”)
Men that are abuse are very clever, smart, and extremely charming. Most of these men have a personality that draws people in because of their level of charm this is part of their art to deceive and manipulate. This is why often times when a victim does report an assault she is not easily believed because people usually say “not him, he is so nice’ “you are so lucky”, All of this plays into his because if he gets people outside of the home to buy into his deceit the victim has little if no support. Most batterers are seen as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" because of the stark contrast in their public and private selves. When we look into the mind and behaviors of the batterers the DSM-IV gives us some diagnostic criteria/diagnosis for this population.
Diagnosis of Abusers/Batterers
- Antisocial Personality Disorder, (deceitfulness, repeatedly lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships by alternating between extreme idealizations and devaluation.)
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.)
When we look at the profile/characteristics of batterers/abusers we can clearly see how this diagnosis will be found in this population. It’s important to be careful with this diagnosis because many batterers will look to use as an excuse for their behavior.
As we start to look at treatment for this population, I have to say that most of this population doesn’t come into treatment until the partner calls the police or they have been court ordered or the partner threatens to leave. (Note: Victims are at higher risk to be killed when they decide to leave their abusers; this is why some women stay).
Treatment for this population
Group Therapy is important because it allows the batterer to be confronted by his peers on his behavior. I’ve facilitated groups with 16 men in the room at times it would become very confrontational but it was important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators. Group Therapy focuses on weekly topics about: Respect, effective communication skills, honesty, non violence and how to handle your emotions.
Individual Therapy (this is also a good form of treatment because it gives the batterer more time to express himself without the interruption of others, but even in this therapy the batterer has to be strongly confronted and held accountable for his behavior.) Sometimes the batterer/abuser will want to bring his partner to the sessions. I strongly advise against this until both parties have done at least 6 or 7 individual sessions.
In conclusion I need to say that batters can change they can stop this behavior and treat their intimate partner the way they should be treated. I have seen many men change, I remind myself that people aren’t their behavior, it’s just what is manifested on the surface and we must get beneath that and deal with the root cause. Because as a society we can’t afford to have women and children living in fear any longer. Let’s shout it from the highest heights “There is No Excuse for Domestic Violence".
●Victims of Domestic Violence call National DV Hotline: 1-800-799- (SAFE) 7233.