Understanding Abusers’ Behaviour

Understanding Abusers’ Behaviour

Researchers attribute domestic abuse to a sense of entitlement to power and control over their partner / family member. As well as physical violence, abusers are likely to use coercion, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, male privilege, isolation and economic abuse to maintain power and control over their victims.

They will often minimise their abuse by downplaying the severity of their abuse of its impact, by blaming others or denying that they have done anything wrong. They are also likely to use any children as a method of preventing their victim from leaving them by threatening to harm them, abduct them or get them taken into care.

A dangerous misconception is that abusers should attend anger management classes. However, domestic abuse is not about an abusers inability to contain their anger but rather their deliberate use of anger to control their victim. If we choose to enrol an abuser onto an anger management course we simply give them additional controlling skills. Instead, abusers should be referred to specific domestic violence perpetrator programmes which in contrast will address an abusers misplaced sense of entitlement to power and control, whilst working independently with the victim to ensure that they are safe and supported.

Another common misconception is that abusers and their victims should attend couples counselling. This is extremely dangerous, because it places the victim in danger. It is also ineffective because typically a victim would not be safe to talk openly about the extent of the abuse in front of their perpetrator. Finally, it implies that the victim is responsible in part for the violence- which is in itself victim blaming.

As providers we must also be aware that abusers will frequently present as victims in an attempt to avoid detection. Professionals should be mindful of this possibility; however it is better to err on the side of caution and believe all disclosures unless clear evidence exists to the contrary.

In recent years , there has been suggestion in some quarters that Restorative Justice may be a way to resolve domestic violence and abuse issues. However, this must be treated with caution as the issue of risk is always present in such cases as with couples counselling could be extremely dangerous.