In my last post, we explored some of the things a victim has to consider before she chooses to leave or stay in an abusive relationship. (Should I go or Should I stay?) This post will explore the important question of why an abuser believes he is allowed to abuse. Let me begin by saying that I fully realize that men can be victims and women can be the abuser; for the purposes of this post, I am choosing to refer to the abuser as male and the victim as female since statistics show us that as many as 97% of abusers are male, regardless of the gender of their partner. (Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence) Because of the overwhelming amount of men as aggressor, I am choosing to delve into the reasons why men choose to abuse women.
You’ve heard it many times on this blog and have probably read/heard it elsewhere as well. Control is the major motivator in for an abuser. A man who has the unquenchable need to control everything and every person in his life does not care who he hurts or what he does to gain and maintain that control. He will use everything in his power to make sure he wins all arguments, makes all the decisions, is in charge of the victims coming and going as well being in charge of all parenting decisions and keeping tabs on all the money. However, if something goes wrong, he will inevitably blame the victim. He is incapable of taking responsibility for his own failures. Those failures will be twisted and thrown onto his partner to accept as their failure. He will still take total control and will do what ever he can to keep that control. The basis for all abuse is control and it starts with emotional manipulation, a key form of emotional manipulation is to convince the victim to take responsibility for all mistakes and failures. Abuse will cross into verbal, financial, physical, sexual and spiritual areas as well. An abuser doesn’t have to have a mental illness to be an abuser. He doesn’t have to be a narcissist or a sociopath. Abusers abuse because they are abusers. Abusers abuse you, because they are abusers. There are no other reasons necessary.
Abusers have an inflated sense of themselves. They are arrogant and have elevated themselves to a special stature in their own minds. Because he sees himself as all important, he then sees his wife and children as far less important. Their importance stems from their direct relationship to him. In other words, they are an extension of him and owned by him therefore all their value centers around and about him. What he allows, controls and dictates is what they are requires to focus on. They are, in his mind, responsible for his happiness and if anything makes him unhappy, it is their fault. They aren’t allowed a life of their own because their life belongs to him.
He feels justified in his abusive behavior and attitudes. In his mind, she deserves what he does and says to her. If she’d listen to him better, obey him and do what he tells her to do, then he wouldn’t have to teach her a lesson. He believes that she needs his control in order to keep her life in order. He also believes that she actually wants to be abused, otherwise, she’d leave. But she can’t leave, he’s made sure of that.
His mass importance automatically puts him into a category all his own (in his own mind). To go further, he also believes he is entitled to special treatment, special rights and that his needs have to be met on his terms. This entitled attitude will also require the victim to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the abusers life. Entitlement will often be seen when an abuser requires certain actions from his partner such as supper to be made on his predetermined time and be made perfectly, to his distinction, every night because he is entitled to have what he wants done in the way he wants it. He’ll require her to be available for sex when ever and however, he demands it. Or that she must pay 100% attention to him at all times regardless of anyone else who might need her. If he perceives that he is not getting the special treatment he deserves, then he will abuse her to teach her a lesson and keep her in line. Dr. John Townsend explains entitlement this way:
Entitlement encompasses two attitudes: (1) I am exempt from responsibility, and (2) I am owed special treatment. In other words, I don’t have to carry my own burdens, and I should be treated differently.
A myth that most people believe is that a man abuses because he has an anger problem. This so incorrect. He abuses, because he’s an abuser. The truth is, an abuser has an issue with his victims anger, not with his own. If she gets angry or makes demands, then he abuses her to teach her that asking for anything, feeling anything, is not allowed. Only he has the right to make demands. Only he is entitled to feel, especially negative feelings. He gets angry because he is abusive not because he can’t control his anger. If fact, he controls his anger and his abusive behavior all the time. He rarely directly abuses people outside of his own home and the majority of major abusive outbursts are done in private. He can be charming, kind and even endearing to the public eye. This is why so many people will choose to believe him over the victim, when confronted with the truth of his abuse. See my blog on abusive anger… Abusive Anger
Another way to say this is that he doesn’t know how to love anyone more then he loves himself. He will often make statements that will give you a clue that this is true such as “I love her so much. I won’t let her leave me.” or “If I cant have her, nobody can have her.” The love an abuser has for someone else has nothing to do with mutuality, respect or sincere empathy toward his partner. What they call ‘love’ can more closely be explained as possession and ownership. The love they experience has nothing to do with mutuality, respect or sincere empathy toward his partner. Because they often confuse love as abuse, it enables them to justify how they treat their partner. The Bible identifies true love as: T
he greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. John 15:3
Selfish love has no interest in sacrificing itself in anyway much less by giving up any portion of his own life for someone else. Selfish love is all about self preservation and self interest. I never doubted for a minute that my abuser would never give his life for mine for any reason. That made me feel very unloved and quite insecure that he would ever come through for me. Indeed, true colors shine when self sacrificed is required.
Abusers manipulate. They enjoy playing mind games with their victim. (See my blog Abusive Mind Games) They keep their victim walking on egg shells because their responses are so unpredictable. He will change his moods quickly. His moodiness is unpredictable and often volatile. His manipulations keep the victim trying to please him and not looking after their own needs. The mind games create confusion and chaos inside the mind of the victim. This trauma bonds the victim to the abuser and forms another obstacle to her getting out and getting safe.
Manipulating someone is a very fast and effective way of gaining control in a relationship, because the victim is being honest in her approach to the relationship and cannot fathom that he is not doing the same. Therefore, she is blindsided and left trying to make sense of the abuse. The abuser doesn’t have to consider the other persons needs, only his own and he requires that she not consider her needs either, only his. . He will use tactics like gas lighting, passive-aggressiveness, confusion, talking in circles and crazy making. He knows his victims buttons and will push every single one of them, and then tell her she is over reacting and crazy. Manipulation is very covert and hard to describe to someone who doesn’t understand what it looks like. The long term psychological effects are very serious and can effect the victim for years to come. It is one of the worst kind of abuses as it is very difficult to quantify.
HE MINIMIZES AND DENIES, JUSTIFIES AND BLAMES
The whole point of minimizing, denying, justifying and blaming is so that the abuser can skip out of facing the consequences of his actions. He has a need to explain to himself why he acts the way he does without admitting to the reality of his abusive behaviors. He has to save face for himself and for others so that he doesn’t get called out. If he uses these tactics, he can also confuse the victim and turn her own perceptions of the situation onto herself. This effectively keeps her from speaking up and keeps him safe to abuse again.
Abusers are masters at minimizing their actions. They will blame shift, ridicule and laugh off their abuse as a joke. This is a great way of keeping their façade to the general public. People see him as charming and kind. He is wonderful in public, but behind closed doors the real man emerges. When he calls the victim names and she becomes offended, he’ll say it was just a joke. When he opens his car door into her, hard and leaves a bruise on her leg, he’ll say she is over reacting and not hurt that bad. Besides it was an accident. When he slaps her across the face he says she is lucky he didn’t punch her; when he punches her he says she’s lucky his didn’t stab her. When he spends hours in the middle of the night lecturing her, he’ll say that they were working out your issues like adults and maybe, if she can’t handle it, then she isn’t an adult! Minimizing and denying leads the victim to doubt her own sanity at times.
Justifying and Blaming are also ways the abuser uses to prevent themselves for taking responsibility for their actions. Justifying abuse is to basically say that he had no choice. You made him do it, he had a right to defend himself or that the victim started the fight so it was self defense.
There are many more items I could add to this post but I believe that these are the basic core beliefs and thoughts of an abuser. This is how they justify their behavior and attitudes. Abusers can change their ways if they choose to. They can get help. There are many perpetrator counseling groups and individual counselors who are trained to help an abuser see the error of their belief system. They will help an abuser uncover their root issues and heal from them. Most men will not attend these programs unless they are forced to and many more will not attend even then.
I drew a lot of my information from Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That, Inside the minds of abusive and controlling men“. This book is also known as the ‘abuse victims bible.’ It is so accurate in portraying the psyche of an abuse, I’d recommend it to anyone who would like to know more.