Why Domestic Abuse Happens

Original Post: Why Domestic Abuse Happens 

Whether alcohol and drug use is a factor or not, domestic violence and abuse is a very serious problem—for the victims and the abusers. Although studies seem to indicate some link between alcohol/drug misuse and domestic violence, others believe that they are two separate issues.

Domestic abuse is not so much about a “loss of control” as it is about total control. Ironically, many batterers do not see themselves as perpetrators, but as victims. This reasoning is common among batterers and many have elaborate denial systems designed to justify or excuse their actions.

All About Control

There are varying theories about what makes batterers abuse those closest to them. One view is that batterers are hardened criminals who commit their crimes in a conscious, calculated manner to achieve the dominance they believe they are entitled to. Others believe abuse is the result of deep psychological and developmental scars.

Experts have reached a consensus on several common characteristics among batterers. Domestic abusers:

  • Are controlling
  • Are manipulative
  • Believe that men have a pre-ordained right to be in charge of all aspects of a relationship
  • Often see themselves as victims

Mate Retention Behaviors

For some abusers, violence is a tool to keep their intimate partner from leaving the relationship or keeping them from being unfaithful, even if it means physically forcing them to stay.

One study found that in many cases, acts of domestic violence are mate retention behaviors—that is, actions taken by one partner to try to preserve and maintain their relationship with the other partner.

As one batterer explained after going through treatment, the abuse was all about control: “I could make her do whatever I wanted. I was trying to intimidate her. I wanted to control her for the simple reason that I knew I could do it. It made me feel powerful,” he suggested.

The Abuse Cycle

The issues of power and control are essential to an understanding of domestic violence. One way this is accomplished is by becoming familiar with the cycle of violence. Here is an overview of the phases:

  • Build-Up Phase: The tension builds
  • Stand-Over Phase: Verbal attacks increase
  • Explosion Phase: A violent outburst occurs
  • Remorse Phase: The abuser excuses their behavior (“You shouldn’t have pushed me, it was your fault.”)
  • Pursuit Phase: Promises are made (“It will never happen again, I promise.”)
  • Honeymoon Phase: A brief respite before the cycle begins again (“See, we don’t have any problems!”)

Other Forms of Abuse

This cycle concerns actual physical abuse. It does not take into account other forms of domestic abuse that are used to control, such as:

  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological and emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Social abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Verbal abuse

Help for Batterers

There are very few resources available for batterers, but generally speaking, many only seek help when ordered by the courts. Most states spend no tax dollars on treatment for batterers, usually offering only incarceration in jail or prison as a solution.

Putting the abuser in jail will stop the violence, but usually only temporarily, since no treatment is available. The problem is, the involvement of the police and incarceration can actually trigger greater violence in some cases.