What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 11) What makes a person abusive?
What Makes A Person Abusive?
Dr. Bradley starts this chapter off by identifying what she and other experts have seen as the main motive of domestic violence- control (Bradley 40). Abusers seek to control their victims to the point where they dictate their day to day lives. Although physical abuse is a key feature in almost all cases of domestic violence, the underlying motive behind the abuse is to instill fear into the victim in an attempt to control them. In addition to the perpetual control the abuser seeks over their victim, they also actively deny their fault and place blame on the victim. “Abusers always make excuses. None are valid” (Bradley 40). Dr. Bradley notes that batterers will often blame the victim for their “bad” behavior, which subsequently results in beatings. It’s an archaic way of thinking and one that places the victim under the property of the abuser (in the abusers mind).
Not only are beaters delusional and full of excuses, they are usually among the most emotionally dependent on their partners. Men especially are taught that showing emotion indicates weakness, and so many male abusers will bottle up their emotions until a trivial act sets them off in to an uncontrollable rage. Dr. Bradley notes that “over and over, studies find that men who exhibit dominating behavior are in fact extremely insecure, vulnerable, and dependent” (Bradley 40). This may not seem like a surprising fact, but it does speak to how dangerous it can potentially be for a victim to separate themselves from their abuser. Many beaters have a terrible fear of abandonment and are likely to act desperately if they feel they are losing their partner (Bradley 40).
Many abusers come from a home that was isolated from others, and perhaps even abusive themselves. They are taught from an early age that family matters stay within the household, and how to put on a show for the public. Dr. Bradley notes that many abusers lack basic social skills; what is actually two adults having a conversation, can be easily interpreted by a beater to have sexual implications or signs of infidelity (Bradley 41). She also notes that about half of all abusers have chemical dependencies, and that many exhibit personality or mental disorders like “lack of empathy, depression, general hostility, and feelings of victimization” (Bradley 41). It is extremely hard for an abuser to trust his/her partner, which results in the beater attempting to affirm their security against abandonment through control. Although it is hard to empathize with someone who is committing domestic violence, it is vital to understand that nearly all abusers are in some type of pain. The more we can understand the problem of domestic violence to its fullest extent, the easier it will be to put an end to it, which includes understanding the abuser.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 2001