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Signs to Look for in a Battering Personality

Many women are interested in knowing how they can predict whether or not they are becoming involved with an abuser. There is no typical victim or perpetrator. Any woman can be battered regardless of age, race, nationality, sexual orientation, educational background, or socioeconomic level. Battering usually occurs between a man and a woman partner. However, violence can exist in other domestic relationships as well; lesbian battering and older parents beaten by their adult children are examples.

To facilitate reading, the word "he" is used to name the role of the abuser. This wording is not meant to discount various other situations where domestic violence occurs.

Below is a list of behaviors seen in people who beat their partners. If the person has several (three or more) of these behaviors, a strong potential exists for physical violence - the more signs a person has, the more likely the person is a batterer. In some cases, a batterer may only have a couple of behaviors that a woman can recognize, but they are exaggerated (e.g., extreme jealousy). In the beginning, these behaviors can be "explained" by the batterer as "love" and "concern". However, as time goes on, these behaviors become more extreme and serve to establish, keep, and strengthen his power and control over the victim.

 

Past Battering

An abuser may say he has hit women in the past, but the woman was at fault or it was only one time. The woman may hear from relatives or ex-partners that the person is abusive. A batterer will beat any woman he is with if she is with him long enough for control to be established and violence to begin: situational circumstances do not make a person abusive.

Threats of Violence

Such threats include those of physical force meant to control the woman; "I'll slap your mouth off," "I'll kill you," "I'll break your neck." Though most people do not threaten their partners, a batterer will try to excuse threats by saying "everybody talks like that."

Breaking or Striking Objects

This behavior is used as punishment (breaking treasured possessions), but mostly this behavior is used to terrorize the woman into submission. The abuser may beat on tables with his fist or throw objects around or near the woman. There is great danger when someone thinks they have the "right" to punish or frighten a partner.

Any Force During a Fight

This force may involve a batterer holding a woman down, physically restraining her from leaving a room, any pushing or shoving. The abuser may hold the woman against the wall and say "you're going to listen to me!".

Jealousy

At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it's a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. The abuser will question the woman about whom she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of time she spends with family, friends, or children. As jealousy progresses, the abuser may call her frequently or drop by unexpectedly. The abuser may refuse to let her work, saying he's "afraid" she'll meet someone else or he may do strange things, such as checking her car mileage or asking friends to watch her.

Controlling Behavior

At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because of concern for the woman's safety and well being. The abuser will be angry if the woman is "late" coming back from somewhere and will closely question her about where she went, to whom she spoke, etc. As this behavior gets worse, the abuser may not let the woman make personal decisions about the home, her clothing, or going to church; he may keep all the money or even make her ask permission to leave the house or room.

Quick Involvement

Most battered women dated or knew the abusers for less than six months (many, less than three months) before they were married, living together, or engaged. An abuser comes on like a whirlwind claiming "you're the only person I could ever talk to," "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." The abuser will pressure the woman to commit to the relationship in such a way that later a woman may feel very guilty or feel she is "letting him down" if she wants to slow down involvement or break off the relationship.

Unrealistic Expectations

Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all of their needs; the abuser expects the woman to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, and friend. Abusers will say things like "if you love me, I'm all you need - you're all I need." She is supposed to take care of everything for the abuser emotionally and domestically.

Isolation

The abusive person tries to cut the woman off from all resources. If she has men friends, she's a whore; if she has women friends, she's a lesbian; if she's close to her family, she's "tied to apron strings." The abuser accuses people who support the woman of "causing trouble." The abuser may want to live in the country without a phone, may not let the woman use the car, or have one that is reliable, or may try to keep the woman from working, going to school, or going to church.

Blaming Others for Problems

If the abuser is chronically unemployed, someone is out to get him. Someone is always trying to do him wrong. The abuser may make mistakes and then blame the woman for upsetting him and keeping him from concentrating. The abuser will tell the woman she is at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.

Blaming Others for Feelings

The abuser will tell the woman "you make me mad," "you're hurting me by not doing what I tell you," "I can't help being angry." The abuser really makes the decision about what he thinks or feels, but will use "feelings" to manipulate the woman. Less obvious are such claims as "only you can make me happy," "you control how I feel."

Hypersensitivity

An abuser is easily insulted, claiming his feelings are hurt when he is really mad or taking the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. The abuser will rant and rave about the injustice of things that happen - things that are really just part of life, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told a behavior is annoying, being asked to help with chores.

Cruelty to Children and Animals

An abuser often kills or punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain and suffering. The abuser may expect children to do things that are way beyond their ability (spanks a two-year-old for wetting a diaper). The abuser may not want the children to eat at the table or will expect them to stay in their room all evening while the abuser is home.

"Playful" Use of Force In Sex

An abuser may like to throw the woman down or hold her down during sex. The abuser may want to act out fantasies during sex where the woman is helpless and will let her know the idea of rape is exciting. The abuser may show little concern about whether the woman wants to have sex and will use sulking behavior to manipulate her or angry behavior to pressure her into compliance. The abuser may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping or demand sex when she is ill or tired.

Verbal Abuse

In addition to saying things meant to be cruel and hurtful, the verbal abuser degrades the woman, cursing her or running down her accomplishments. The abuser will tell the woman she is stupid and unable to function without him. Such abuse may involve waking the woman up to verbally abuse her or not letting her go to sleep.

Rigid Sex Roles

The abuser may expect the woman to serve him, perhaps saying the woman must stay at home, or saying she must obey in all things - even things criminal in nature. The abuser will see women as inferior, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Many women are confused by their abuser's "sudden" mood changes. They may think the abuser has some mental problem, because one minute the abuser is really nice and the next minute the abuser is exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who abuse their partners and can serve to further intimidate or frighten their partners.

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