In my area, many Southwest Missouri city and county law enforcement departments report that 50% or more of their incoming calls are related to domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is not just a law and order problem, it is also a community problem. With numbers like this, we know there is a severe cultural problem in our communities. Listed below is the profile of an abuser. Some or all of these behaviors can be present in the individual who is abusing their family. The list is a pattern of behaviors repeatedly presented in my case files of hundreds of Texas and Wright County citizens that make up in part that 50%.
Keep in mind that for the most part an abuser has a low self-image and seeks ways to control and intimidate others to compensate for it. When you have two persons together in a relationship who both have a low self-image and one of them fits the abuser profile then you can have a perfect storm.
Below is a list taken from “Criminal Thinking and Behavior Patterns Often Displayed By Abusers” Source unknown.
Excuse Making: Gives excuses instead of accepting responsibility; tries to justify the behavior with the excuse: I was never loved; My parents beat me; I had a bad day and when I walked in and saw this mess, I lost my temper
Blaming: Shifts the responsibility for the behavior on others and justifies the anger at someone else for causing the behavior: If you would stay out of it when I’m disciplining the kids, I wouldn’t hit them.
Redefining: Changes the definition of what is going on so that the problem becomes the focus instead of the abusive behavior: This place is always a mess. . .what do you do all day!
Lying: Helps to control the situation through confusion by controlling the information available.
Uniqueness: Believes that they are different from others and do not have to follow the same rules. They are right and everyone else is wrong: I don’t need counseling; Nobody knows as much about me as I do; I can handle my life without outside help.
Fragmenting: Feels justified and sees no inconsistencies in their behavior: Common for an abuser to attend church on Sunday and beat their partner on Monday.
Minimizing: Refusing to take responsibility by making behavior out to be less than it is: I didn’t hit the kids that hard; I didn’t leave any marks so you can’t be battered; I could have hurt you a lot worse, but I didn’t.
Ownership: Applies equally to people and possessions and justifies their control over other’s behavior through abuse and taking what they want: If I want it, it’s mine; If it’s mine, I can do whatever I want with it.
Anger: Uses their anger to control and intimidate others and situations.
Power Play: Uses these tactics to regain control when not getting their way: Walking out of a room; Refusing to listen to others; Out-shouting and ignoring others.
Playing Victim: Manipulates others into rescuing them by appearing helpless and pretending to be unable to cope: If I don’t get what I want, I am a victim.
Drama and Excitement: Substituting uproar and stimulation for close satisfying relationships because they have a problem connecting with others: Gets into fights; incites others to anger. Criticizes and belittles others to make them feel worthless.
Closed Channel: Reveals little about their real feelings and is not open to new information particularly about their behavior: Secretive, closed-minded, self-righteous, always right in all situations.
Image: Thinks of themselves as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient and macho because of the results they get from intimidating others. Any statement which does not support the concept of their image is taken as a put-down: I’m not doing anything wrong. If I am doing something wrong, I won’t get caught. If I get caught, I can talk my way out of it. If I can’t talk my way out, the consequences will be light.
The following is taken from an excellent website titled “Characteristics of Abuse”. The link is at the end of this reference.
“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.”
We may only witness a few of these behaviors in our acquaintances and family members and feel that they are harmless and even normal but the person or the family who is being victimized by this pattern of behavior can tell a different story. Abuse is criminal. A person with these behaviors will cross a line at some point pushing the control to a new level – one of violence, especially if there is any resistance.
If you know someone like this or are living in a relationship with them, please know that you cannot change the abuser’s behavior. This individual must seek professional help and want to change themselves. If you are finding yourself in an ongoing cycle which includes incidents of escalating abuse followed by the honeymoon phase and on and on, please seek help for yourself. Protect yourself and your children as it typically does not end well. You can also lose your children to state custody and be charged with “failure to protect” or “child endangerment”. There are different levels of severity of these charges which could give you a felony record for life. This record could affect any employment or education opportunities you might seek especially in human services as they do background checks. And worst of all, eventually your children will think this lifestyle is normal and behave this way when they are adults or will enter into relationships where they are abused – continuing the cycle because that is all they have known. This is your opportunity to break the cycle and protect yourself and them. There is help available in dealing with this destructive problem. Go to the resource section for websites and phone numbers you can access for help.