The ABC's of People Who Batter by Barbara Corry, M.A.


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Emotional and physical abuse that are combined and continue over time are regarded as "battering."

Battering does not refer to a single argument, nor does it mean the occasional conflicts that many couples have that may grow to yelling at each other with possibly some pushing or shoving.

Battering in a relationship involves beating or verbally abusing an intimate partner over a long period of time (Levy, 1984, p. 23). Battering may continue for years and is aimed at controlling one's partner or children through the use of terror, confusion, and disabling the target's ability to think and reason for themselves. People Erin Pizzey calls "emotional terrorists" also fall within the category of batterers. An example of a woman battering a man in a relationship is given in The Story of John and Diane.

Alcohol, drugs, poverty, and physical and mental disorders often accentuate or precipitate the abusive and violent behavior. There is growing evidence that people who batter almost always suffer from a mental disorder. But very often the person will have many of the attributes tabulated here independently of their other problems.

Battering is more common among people living at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. The very great majority of men who batter women have a criminal history, often extensive, and usually involving crimes of violence. As women are prosecuted and convicted much less frequently than men, the correlation is much weaker. One would be wise to be wary of a relationship with any woman, or man, with a criminal history of violent crimes.

But those who abuse and batter come in every shape and size, and from every income level and social strata, so don't expect the sex or appearance of someone who batters to fit any stereotype.

This list is intended to help someone identify their own characteristics, or those of someone close to them, in order to recognize and, hopefully, forestall or prevent abusive or violent behavior. Very often abusers and batterers refuse to take a close look at themselves or to accept that what they are doing is wrong.

We hope these ABC's will act as a reality check.

We also wish to strongly emphasize that not everyone with some of these characteristics is, or may become an abuser or batterer. But if you are having problems in your relationship and you recognize many of these factors in yourself, or your intimate partner, you should acknowledge these problems and take reasonable steps to minimize or cure the underlying conditions.


ABC's of battering


Abused as children: Most batterers were beaten, verbally abused, or sexually abused as children.


Believe in Traditional Sex Roles: Abusers often hold to traditional sex roles (e.g., macho men, subservient women).


Controlling: Abuse and violence are purposefully controlling behavior by someone who wants total control.


Deny, minimize, and blame: A batterer does not want to be responsible for their violent actions or for the harm they cause. Abusers learn to deny wrongdoing, minimize injury, and blame others.


Emotionally abusive: Battering is not limited to physical abuse and the emotional harm may be worse than the physical injury.


Feel powerless: Abusers are often frightened individuals who are afraid to be alone in the world.


Grew up with violence: People who abuse learned early on that they could gain control and get power by throwing things or by raising their voice.


Have a negative belief system about the two sexes: Batterers often lump "all women" or "all men" together and do not see men or women as individuals.


Insecure: Abusive individuals frequently have a deeply rooted fear that they are inadequate.


Jealous: Those who abuse tend to be extremely jealous and have difficulty trusting others.


Kill or torture what they cannot possess: In the worst cases battering involves extreme physical or mental cruelty. Some stalk and kill what they can no longer possess.


Lack relationship skills: People who abuse have had very poor role models for important relationship skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution, and establishing intimacy with a partner.


Master manipulators: Abusers are often someone who know exactly how to make their partner feel sorry for them.


Not able to nurture: Abusers frequently have difficulty giving and receiving love.


Overly dependent on their partners: Batterers may become overly dependent on their intimate partners for their unmet emotional needs. They often seek from their mates the nurturing and security they did not receive as children.


Prior history of violence: An abuser may have a history of being "moody" or having a "hot temper." They may throw or break things when angry.


Quickly change from Dr. Jekyll to Mr(s). Hyde: Abusive individuals can be extremely passive and very charming one minute and explode in anger the next. Drugs or alcohol may trigger the metamorphosis.


Regard partners as easy targets: Most people who abuse would not think of doing to others what they do to their intimate partners.


Self-centered: Abusers usually lack consideration for others.


Try to punish and control with subtle forms of abuse: Batterers often use subtle forms of abuse to punish, humiliate, and control their partners.


Unable to identify or express their feelings directly: People who abuse are unable to differentiate between their feelings, and they do not have a vocabulary to express their emotions. All of their emotions then become funneled through anger or violence.


Vary by type: People who batter vary by income level, appearance and gender. They may be emotionally abusive, physically abusive, or both. Their abuse may be confined to family members inside the home, or they may be violent outside the home as well.


Will get what they want through physical violence: Batterers tell us that their violence is a convenient tool to get what they want and to make things go the way they want.


Xenophobic: An abuser is often someone who fears, distrusts, and dislikes that which is foreign to them.


You must follow their orders—or else: No matter what their mate does, an abuser is never satisfied.


Zero in on partner's vulnerabilities: Individuals who abuse often betray the trust of their intimate partners and break their confidences.



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| Chapter 7 — The Face Of Battering |

| Next — The Story Of John And Diane by Charles Corry, Ph.D. |

| Back — Batterers by Charles Corry, Ph.D. |


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Last modified 5/16/18