In order to continue to provide information on domestic violence and abuse during October National Domestic Violence Awareness month, we have prepared the following article.
Men who batter women come from all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The abuser may be young or old, blue collar or white collar, highly paid or unemployed. As a matter of fact, it is believed that upper socio-economic domestic violence and abuse is under-reported and concealed. He may be a drinker or nondrinker. He may use drugs or not use at all. Batterers represent all different kinds of personalities, family backgrounds, and professions. There is no typical batterer. The majority of batterers are only violent with their intimate partners. One study found that 90% of abusers do not have criminal records and that batterers are generally law-abiding outside the home. It is estimated that only 5-10% of batterers commit acts of physical and sexual violence against other people as well as their female partners. Although there is no personality profile of the abuser, there are some behaviors that are common among men who batter their partners. These include:
■Denying the existence or minimizing the seriousness of the violence and its effects on the victim and other family members
■ Showing extreme jealousy and possessiveness which often leads to isolation of the victim from family and friends
■ Refusing to take responsibility for the abuse by blaming it on loss of control, the effects of alcohol or drugs, frustration, stress, and/or the victim’s behavior
■ Holding rigid, traditional views of sex roles and parenting, or negative attitudes toward women in general
Typically, when trying to understand why men batter, people want to look for what is “wrong” with the abuser, believing that they must be mentally ill in some way. However, battering is not a mental illness that can be diagnosed, but a learned behavioral choice. Nonetheless, we often find that batterers suffer from Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, OCD, ADHD and/or Substance Abuse. An evaluation to determine if a mental illness exists is always important. Treating the underlying illness or substance abuse problem may allow the individual to regulate their mood and behavior and eliminate battering behavior. Feelings of anger and rage are often associated with men’s experience of Depression.
Men may use physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse to maintain power and control over their relationships with their female partners. They have learned that violence works to achieve this end. The vast majority of batterers grew up in homes where they witnessed violence or were abused themselves. While many batterers have substance abuse problems, there is no evidence that alcohol or drugs cause violence behavior. However, battering incidents involving alcohol or drug use may be more severe due to being under the influence. It should also be noted that many batterers may only be violent with their partners when under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Most batterers find themselves in court-ordered anger management programs. Because battering is a learned behavior, it can be unlearned. These programs are designed specifically for batterers are the preferred method for addressing abusive behavior. Programs for batterers are not the cure-all for domestic violence, but one facet of a coordinated community response to the problem.
Individual psychotherapy is the only possible treatment to discover the core issues behind one’s battering behavior. Anger management groups do not provide an opportunity to understand why one batters. Groups allow one to develop skills to prevent abuse and identify the triggers of abuse, but they do not provide an opportunity to define boundaries, improve self-esteem and process trauma. These are the other essential components in addition to anger management skills of treatment that allow for long-term recovery from battering.
Couples therapy is contraindicated for domestic violence. A skilled Therapist should screen couples attending Therapy before they walk in the door, since couples therapy exacerbates domestic violence. Couples should only attend therapy once the violence has stopped for 90 or more days. Often this only happens once the batterer attends therapy individually for a period of time. Ideally a batterer should attend their own individual therapy with their own Therapist and a separate couples Therapist should provide couples therapy. The lines should never be blurred in the therapeutic relationship.
Just as victims of domestic violence require a safe non-judgemental environment to understand and change their behavior, so do individuals who batter. Seeking therapy is a sign of recognizing the problem and a desire to change. An individual must first understand why the behavior exists in order to make long-term changes. This same concept also applies to victims of domestic violence. Overcoming the psychological reasons why someone batters is the most important first step to rebuilding your relationship with your partner. Many individuals may also require a Therapist skilled in treating substance abuse in order to change their behavior.
Battering is a behavior that is often passed on from one generation to another. In order to break the cycle all family members including children who witnessed violence must receive help, Due to the fact we have many Therapists in our group, we have the ability to provide all the necessary services and coordinate treatment amongst the Therapists in our group. If you are interested in changing your battering behavior, our RecoveryNOW Therapists are here to assist all family members with recovery from domestic violence. We are committed to restoring family peace.