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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 violent.

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 tough.

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.


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