Why Do People Abuse?
Domestic violence and abuse stem from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partners, and they may enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them. They often believe that their own feelings and needs should be the priority in their relationships, so they use abusive tactics to dismantle equality and make their partners feel less valuable and deserving of respect in the relationship.
No matter why it happens, abuse is not okay and it’s never justified.
Abuse is a learned behavior. Sometimes people see it in their own families. Other times they learn it from friends or popular culture. However, abuse is a choice, and it’s not one that anyone has to make. Many people who experience or witness abuse growing up decide not to use those negative and hurtful ways of behaving in their own relationships. While outside forces such as drug or alcohol addiction can sometimes escalate abuse, it’s most important to recognize that these issues do not cause abuse.
Who Can Be in an Abusive Relationship?
Anyone can be abusive and anyone can be the victim of abuse. It happens regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race or economic background. If you are being abused by your partner, you may feel confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped. All of these emotions are normal responses to abuse. You might also blame yourself for what is happening. But, no matter what others might say, you are never responsible for your partner’s abusive actions. Being abusive is a choice. It’s a strategic behavior the abusive person uses to create their desired power dynamic. Regardless of the circumstances of the relationship or the pasts of either partner, no one ever deserves to be abused.
Characteristics of Abusers
If the person you love or live with does these things, its time to get help:
- Keeps track of what you are doing all the time and criticizes you for little things.
- Constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school.
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- Controls all the money you spend.
- Humiliates you in front of others.
- Destroys your property or things that you care about.
- Threatens to hurt you or the children or pets, or does cause hurt (by hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting).
- Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
- Forces you to have sex against your will.
- Blames you for his/her violent outbursts.
Characteristics of Abusers...Warning signs of potential violence:
- Abuser pacing the floor
- Clenching/unclenching fists
- Facial expression (glaring)
Always be conscious of your own safety needs in all interactions involving an abusive person. Do not meet privately with a violence-prone individual. If you must do so, be sure someone is available close by in case you need help.
Abusers frequently have the following characteristics:
- Often blow up in anger at small incidents. He or she is often easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really very angry.
- Are excessively jealous: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser may claim that jealousy is a sign of his or her love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love.
- Like to isolate victim: He or she may try to cut you off from social supports, accusing the people who act as your support network of "causing trouble."
- Have a poor self-image; are insecure.
- Blame others for their own problems.
- Blame others for their own feelings and are very manipulative. An abusive person will often say "you make me mad", "youre hurting me by not doing what I ask", or "I cant help being angry".
- Often are alcohol or drug abusers.
- May have a family history of violence.
- May be cruel to animals and/or children.
- May have a fascination with weapons.
- May think it is okay to solve conflicts with violence.
- Often make threats of violence, breaking or striking objects.
- Often use physical force during arguments.
- Often use verbal threats such as, "Ill slap your mouth off", "Ill kill you", or "Ill break your neck". Abusers may try to excuse this behaviour by saying, "everybody talks like that".
- May hold rigid stereotypical views of the roles of men and women. The abuser may see women as inferior to men, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
- Are very controlling of others. Controlling behaviours often grow to the point where victims are not allowed to make personal decisions.
- May act out instead of expressing themselves verbally.
- May be quick to become involved in relationships. Many battered women dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together.
- May have unrealistic expectations. The abuser may expect his or her partner to fulfill all his or her needs. The abusive person may say, If you love me, Im all you need- youre all I need".
- May use "playful" force during sex, and/or may want to act out sexual fantasies in which the victim is helpless.
- May say things that are intentionally cruel and hurtful in order to degrade, humiliate, or run down the victims accomplishments.
- Tend to be moody and unpredictable. They may be nice one minute and the next minute explosive. Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of men who beat their partners.
- May have a history of battering: the abuser may admit to hitting others in the past, but will claim the victim asked for it. An abuser will beat any woman he is with; situational circumstances do not make a person abusive.
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How dangerous is the abuser? Assessing lethality in an abuse situation:
Some domestic violence is life threatening. All domestic violence is dangerous, but some abusers are more likely to kill than others and some are more likely to kill at specific times. The likelihood of homicide is greater when the following factors are present:
- Threats of homicide or suicide: The abuser may threaten to kill himself, the victim, the children, relatives, friends, or someone else;
- Plans for homicide or suicide: The more detailed the abusers plan and the more available the method, the greater the risk he will use deadly force;
- Weapons: The abuser possesses weapons, and has threatened to use them in the past against the victim, the children, or himself. If the abuser has a history of arson, fire should be considered a weapon;
- "Ownership" of the victim: The abuser says things like "If I cant have you no one can" or "I would rather see you dead than have you divorce me". The abuser believes he is absolutely entitled to the obedience and loyalty of the victim;
- Centrality of victim to the abuser: The abuser idolizes the victim, depending heavily on him or her to organize and sustain the abusers life, or the abuser isolates the victim from outside supports;
- Separation violence: The abuser believes he is about to lose the victim;
- Repeated calls to law enforcement: A history of violence is indicated by repeated police involvement;
- Escalation of risk-taking: The abuser has begun to act without regard to legal or social consequences that previously constrained his violence; and
- Hostage taking: He is desperate enough to risk the life of innocent persons by taking hostages. There is a very serious likelihood of the situation turning deadly.
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Battered and Abused Men:
Most of us recognize that men experience verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of women, less well accepted or admitted is the fact of physical abuse. In our society, we think of women as the victims and men as the aggressors in physical abuse. The fact that women are more likely to be severely injured in domestic violence adds to the problem of recognizing male abuse. Nevertheless, it happens - frequently. In fact, men are just as likely to be seriously injured when a woman becomes violent because women are more likely to use weapons in the course of an assault. If a male client indicates that his girlfriend or partner assaulted him, believe him. A man will find it harder to discuss his pain with you than will a woman, and even harder to admit to being a victim. It is easier to attribute an injury to a sports mishap or workplace accident than to admit to a doctor or police officer it resulted from domestic violence.
- Fewer men report abuse. They are ashamed to report being abused by women.
- Health care and law enforcement professionals are more likely to accept alternative explanations of abuse from a man. They will believe other reasons for the presence of bruises and other signs of injury.
- Our justice system often takes the word of the woman above the word of the man in abuse cases. It is just more believable that the aggressor was the man, not the woman.
- Men are more likely to tolerate the pain of abuse than women. They "grin and bear it more. And again, many are ashamed to seek medical help for abuse.
- Unless a woman uses a weapon, she usually does not have the strength to inflict injury.
Abused men are as likely as their female counterparts are to have low self-esteem. People can come to believe that they are somehow responsible for what happened. People cling to the hope that things will get better: that the woman he "loves" will quit when their relationship is better adjusted, or the children get older and show more responsibility. These are all pretty much the same excuses women make for remaining with men who batter them.
Are you abused? Does the person you love
- "Track" all of your time?
- Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?
- Discourage your relationships with family and friends?
- Prevent you from working or attending school?
- Criticize you for little things?
- Become angry easily when drinking or abusing drugs?
- Control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
- Humiliate you in front of others?
- Destroy your personal property or items with sentimental value?
- Hit, punch, slap, kick, or bite you or the children?
- Use or threaten to use a weapon against you?
- Threaten to hurt you or hurt the children?
- Force you to have sex against your will?
Below is a list of things Jerry can do to help himself:
- Tell friends he trusts.
- Make safety arrangements such as:
- Leaving the relationship;
- Finding a safe place to go; and
- Changing his phone number and/or locks.
- Telephone a domestic violence hotline or shelter and:
- Talk to a worker;
- Find out about his legal rights; or
- See a counsellor - separately or with Lisa.
- Gain the support of witnesses, when possible.
- Take notes detailing dates, times and what occurred.
- Phone 911 when Lisa becomes physically abusive.
Below is a self-assessment quiz to help you determine if you are being abused. You may be suffering abuse even if you answer, Yes to only a few questions.
You may be becoming or already are a victim of abuse if you:
- Feel like you have to "walk on eggshells" to keep him/her from getting angry and are frightened by his/her temper.
- Feel you can't live without him/her.
- Stop seeing other friends or family, or give up activities you enjoy because he/she doesn't like them.
- Are afraid to tell him/her your worries and feelings about the relationship.
- Are often compliant because you are afraid to hurt his/her feelings; and have the urge to "rescue" him/her when he/she is troubled.
- Feel that you are the only one who can help him/her and that you should try to "reform" him/her.
- Find yourself apologizing to yourself or others for your partner's behaviour when you are treated badly.
- Stop expressing opinions if he/she doesn't agree with them.
- Stay because you feel he/she will kill him/herself if you leave.
- Believe that his/her jealousy is a sign of love.
- Have been kicked, hit, shoved, or had things thrown at you by him/her when he/she was jealous or angry.
- Believe the critical things he/she says to make you feel bad about yourself.
- Believe that there is something wrong with you if you don't enjoy the sexual things he/she makes you do.
- Believe in the traditional ideas of what a man and a woman should be and do -- that the man makes the decisions and the woman pleases him.
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