Are You Abused or At Risk for Abuse?
Dawn Bradley Berry
According to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project of Duluth,
Minnesota, certain behaviors of abusive men have been identified as
characteristic of the early stages of abuse that often precedes physical
battering. These personality traits are combined with information on the
predictors of domestic violence, as identified by the National Technical
Assistance Center on Family Violence and published by the National
Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Women who recognize several of
these traits in their partners should take a careful look at the
relationship and carefully consider getting out before it becomes
1. Your partner has a history of growing up in a violent family, a
setting where he learned that violence is normal behavior.
2. He has a tendency to use force or violence to try to solve
problems- as indicated by behavior such as a criminal record for
violence, a quick temper or tendency to overreact to minor frustrations,
fighting, destructive behavior when angry, cruelty to animals.
3. He abuses alcohol or drugs.
4. He has a poor opinion of himself, often masked by trying to act
5. He often exhibits jealousy, not only of other men, but also of
friends and family members.
6. He exhibits hyper-masculine behavior-he feels he should make all
the decisions, tell you what your role as a woman and his as a man must
be. He has very traditional ideas about appropriate roles and behaviors
of men and women, and thinks women are second-class citizens. He expects
you to follow his orders and advice and may becomes angry if you can’t
read his mind and anticipate what he wants.
7. He emotional abuses you or other women with name-calling,
put-downs, humiliation, and attempts to create guilt.
8. He isolates you by telling you who you may see or talk to,
controls what you do and where you go, even what you read. He keeps tabs
on your every move, and wants you with him all the time.
9. He intimidates you and makes you afraid through, looks, anger,
actions, a display of weapons or gestures. He destroys your property or
abuses your pets. He-enjoys playing with lethal weapons, and threatens
to use them against those he feels wronged him. You do what he wants you
to do, and constantly work to keep him from getting angry.
10. He portrays “Jekyll and Hyde” behavior. He goes through highs and
lows, as though he is two different people, and he swings from extremely
kind to extremely cruel.
11. He uses coercion and threats. He tells you he will hurt you,
leave you, or kill himself if you leave. If you file charges against him
he makes you drop them by threatening violence or suicide. Have you
changed your life so you won't make him angry?
12. He treats you roughly, and physically forces you to do things you
do not want to do.
13. He often denies his actions minimizing or making light of his own
abusive behavior, refusing to take your concerns seriously, and blaming
you for his behavior.
14. He economically abuses you by preventing you from getting or
keeping a job, controlling all the money in the household, making you
ask for money, or concealing his income.
Women in relationships where these behaviors regularly take place are
already abused, even if the physical violence has not started. These
signs should be taken very seriously.
Sometimes people are occasionally nasty, but generally treat their
partners well, so it is not so clear as to whether the behavior is
abusive or merely the less pleasant side of normal human nature. Often
the way a victim feels or acts can be a clue that occasional moodiness
has crossed the line into abuse. Ask yourself if you have begun to doubt
yourself-do you wonder if you are crazy? Do you look at yourself and
what you do in a different way? For example, if you once considered
yourself a good cook, a talented singer, a competent worker, has this
changed? Do you doubt your own judgment? Are you afraid of your partner?
Have you stopped expressing your opinion? Do you hesitate to make
decisions before asking your partner’s permission? Have you stopped
seeing friends, taking classes, going out when you choose? Do you spend
a lot of time watching your partner’s moods? One of the simplest things
a women can do to begin the process of change is to begin to say
different things to herself. Reassure yourself that you do not deserve
abuse, that you do not have to tolerate mistreatment. Remind yourself of
your positive traits, your accomplishments, all the things you can do
and have done.
We all have human imperfections. Sometimes we can benefit by working,
either on our own or with the help of others, to make changes in
ourselves that will improve our lives. Everyone has room to grow. But
nothing gives one human being the right to use violence against another
except in self-defense to stop violence. Even if you have behaved in a
way toward your partner that you or he does not consider right-such as
yelling, nagging, engaging in infidelity, or criticizing –that does not
give him the right to hurt you. It may give him the right to get angry,
to tell you to stop. To argue, or to leave you. It does not, ever,
justify violence. You may have provoked his anger, but you did not
provoke his violence. That was his choice, and his problem. Healthy
men-the vast majority-so not hit women who make them angry. They have
other ways of managing and expressing their anger. If he abuses you, it
is not your fault. You did not cause the abuse. There is no shame in
seeking assistance. And most of all, programs protect your privacy. The
Women's Community Association of Albuquerque characterizes respect and
confidentiality as mainstays of their programs.
Battery is against the law. You are not responsible for your
partner's violent behavior, even though he probably tries to blame you.
No one deserves abuse. You have the right to insist that you live in a
peaceful home, and your children grow up in a home free from violence.
Nothing justifies abuse, and if your partner is truly sorry, he needs to
get help to learn alternatives to abusive behavior. As Ginny NiCarthy
writes in Getting Free: A Handbook for Women in Abusive Relationships,
you have certain fundamental rights: "The right to speak your mind. The
right to privacy, choices, some free time, some money of your own,
friends, work, bodily integrity, freedom from fear, treatment with
respect and dignity."
Berry, Dawn Bradley, 1995. Domestic Violence Sourcebook, p.196-202.
Lowell House, Los Angeles, CA.