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John G. Taylor, MA
John G. Taylor, MA
Domestic Violence

Behind the Veil: Inside the Mind of Men Who Abuse

Domestic violence and unmasking the terror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Key points

  • Ninety-five percent of reported domestic violence cases are of men abusing women.
  • Partner abuse ranges from playing mind games to physical harm, such as punching, choking, and even murder.
  • Group therapy is important for abusive partners because it allows them to be confronted by their peers on their behavior.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, sending more than one million every year to doctor’s offices or emergency rooms. This violence isn’t perpetrated by the hands of a stranger but by the one who said I love you. Let's take a look inside the minds of men who abuse.

I want to share the knowledge and experiences that I’ve had facilitating groups and counseling more than 1,000 men who have abused their intimate partners. There are too many women and men dying, people being injured, and far too many children growing up in violent homes to later become victims or abusers themselves.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence happens 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, and classes, as well as in same-sex relationships. We find that domestic violence is perpetrated by men and women, 95 percent of reported domestic violence cases are men abusing women and 5 percent of reported domestic violence cases are women abusing men.

National Stats

  1. Every 12 seconds, a woman is abused by her intimate partner in the U.S.
  2. Thirty-seven percent of pregnant women are battered during pregnancy, including blows to the abdomen.
  3. There are more animal shelters than there are shelters for victims of domestic violence in the U.S.

These numbers are staggering and they are growing. However, this is only what is reported, imagine how many more women are being abused but never report the incident.

The Cycle of Violence

  • Phase 1: Tension building; usually there is tension building within the batterer and there is usually an argument
  • Phase 2: Explosion; where the assault happens
  • Phase 3: Honeymoon; the abuser apologizes for his behavior by 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

  1. Emotional; playing mind games
  2. Verbal; name-calling
  3. Technological; GPS tracking, Facebook sabotaging
  4. Sexual; forcing sex while partner is asleep or basing sex on the Bible
  5. Physical; physical harm such as punching, choking, even murder

Would you know an abuser by looking at him? What makes them tick? What are the signs of a batterer? You can’t tell if a person is an abuser by looking at them. Yet there are some tell-tale signs and behaviors. Here are a few:

Profile of an Abuser

  1. Jealousy; questioning partner constantly about whereabouts, jealous of the time she spends away from him
  2. Controlling behavior; the victim cannot get a job, leave the house, or bathe without permission
  3. Isolation; makes the victim move away from family and friends so they solely depend on the abuser for support
  4. Forces sex against partner's will
  5. Holds very rigid gender roles; the partner's job is to cater to the abuser

Men who abuse are clever, smart, and extremely charming. Most of these men have a personality that draws people in; they are adept at charming, deceiving, and manipulating. When a victim reports an assault, she is not easily believed. People normally say: “Not him, he is so nice." “You are so lucky."

He gets people outside of the home to buy into his deceit, and the victim has little to no support. Most batterers are seen as Jekyll and Hyde because of the stark contrast in their public and private selves. When we look into the mind and behaviors of batterers, the DSM cites these criteria:

Diagnosis of Abusers

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder; deceitfulness, repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder; a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships by alternating between extreme idealizations and devaluation
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder; a grandiose sense of self-importance

When we look at the profile and characteristics of batterers or abusers, we can clearly see how the diagnosis will be found in this population.

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, which can become confrontational. But it's important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators. Group therapy focuses on respect, effective communication skills, honesty, non-violence, and emotion regulation.

Individual therapy is 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 will want to bring his partner to the sessions. I strongly advise against this until both parties have had individual sessions.

Batterers can stop their behavior. 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. We can’t afford to have women and children living in fear. Let’s shout it from the highest heights: “There Is No Excuse for Domestic Violence."

Victims of domestic violence can call National DV Hotline: 1-800-799- (SAFE) 7233.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

About the Author
John G. Taylor, MA

John G. Taylor teaches at Drexel University. He is interested in psychology through the lens of race and ethnicity, and he also researches depression, anger, and abuse.

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