Abuse is a learned behaior used to maintain power and control over victims
Imagine standing in a room full of people. Would you be able to pick out a batterer/domestic abuser in the crowd? It would be nearly impossible because batterers can be found in any and all social, economic, racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds. They are anyone who uses violence against their intimate partner or dating partner in order to gain control over that partner. The violence can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal. Violent relationships affect millions of people and families annually. Ninety percent of batterers are law abiding citizens outside of the home and commit no other crime except the crime of partner abuse. While many people wonder why the victim would stay in such a relationship, a more appropriate question is why does the batterer abuse?
The fact is batterers chose to be abusive. Lundy Bancroft, a counselor who has run a batterer’s’ treatment program for over 20 years, writes in his book “Why Does He Do That?” that batterers abuse because they can. They find it the easiest way to gain and/or maintain power and control over their victims. They want to be the dominant figure in a relationship. Abuse is a learned behavior. It is not genetic. It is not a mental illness. It is a choice.
Many batterers have grown up in an abusive environment where they learned patterns of abuse, power, and control, and have carried them into their adult lives. While there is no personality profile specific to batterers, there are a few qualities that many batterers possess. Many are extremely jealous or possessive of their victim. Many hold rigid views about gender roles in relationships, parenting, and social settings. Nearly all batterers deny the existence of the violence or minimize the seriousness and effects it has on the victim and other family members. Batterers generally refuse to take responsibility for their behavior, blaming the violence on a loss of control, effects of drugs or alcohol, frustration, stress, or the victim’s actions. A victim never causes a batterer to be abusive, nor does alcohol, stress, tiredness or other excuses. All people experience ups and downs in life, but do not resort to abuse. How can we make batterers understand what they are doing is wrong? Can they really change their behavior?
Because battering is a learned behavior, it can be unlearned. Help is available. Programs designed specifically for batterers that are led by facilitators educated in the dynamics of domestic violence are the best way to help an abuser realize that abusive behavior is wrong. Traditional marital or couples therapy is not recommended because batterers will manipulate the sessions and their partners rather than face their issue head-on. Such counseling may also compromise the victim’s safety. By working with a program designed to counsel batterers, the batterer will look at their behavior, be asked to hold themselves accountable for the abuse, and be encouraged to change their behavior to end it. For more information on how to help yourself or someone you know, please contact a Dawson County Domestic Violence Program advocate at 122 W. Bell St. or call 377-6477.