#16DaysofActivism - Five things you should know about abusers

So tonight, I’m doing a bit of myth-busting. Below are five misconceptions about abusers and the truth to their behaviour! I am not an expert on domestic abuse, just a survivor who has done a lot of reading. Almost everything I know, I learned from Lundy Bancroft’s book Why does he do that? and I highly recommend it, even if you’re just interested in psychology but don’t have any first-hand experience of abuse.

Common myths such as these are one of the main reasons abusers continue to operate…

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Abusers don’t have anger issues

It sounds like common sense to say that abusers have anger management issues. In fact, almost all of them have no problem getting through the day without mouthing off at their co-workers or losing it with their parents. They want their behaviour to make no sense, so their partner will start to look inwards and think, “Well, it must be something I’m doing…I’m the only one he loses his temper with.”

Before they know it, their partner is walking on eggshells and doing everything they can to make them happy, to avoid setting them off. Mission accomplished.

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They don’t need to “get in touch with their feelings”

They have too many as it is

When you live with an abuser, things can be blissful for months. But they are secretly listing things you have done to annoy them and squirrelling them away for future use. It can seem that they simmer slowly towards a boil, before finally exploding. If only they were more open with their feelings, they’d get it out of their system before it got to that point…

Nope. An abuser is extremely in touch with their feelings. In fact, they have too many of them. Their feelings engulf the whole relationship; the abuser feels the world must stop until you have made them feel better. An abuser is not in touch with their partner’s feelings. You pour and pour your energy into them but it will never be enough (and they will never reciprocate). For an abuser to change, they must look more at how they think not how they feel.

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They’re not all victims of childhood abuse

Abusers can get a lot of mileage out of this explanation (or excuse, depending on your point of view) and they know it. In fact, male victims of childhood abuse tend to be more violent towards other men but the link is a bit fuzzy when it comes to violence towards women.

What it boils down to is: if they were abused, they should know how shit it feels. It’s human nature for us to empathise with abuse victims but it’s never an excuse to abuse others. If they keep bringing it up as a reason for their behaviour, they’re using it as an excuse to stay the same, not a reason to change.

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Therapy doesn’t

work on abusers

(most of the time)

Since abusers have an inflated sense of their feelings’ worth and are distant from their partner’s feelings, traditional counselling just gives them even more time to talk about themselves and their grievances.

Similarly, abusers may suggest couples’ therapy for the “issues” you’re having. Couples’ therapy is designed to help with mutual problems, not one partner completely dominating and controlling the other. Therefore, by going to therapy together and promising to both make changes to your behaviour, the pattern of appeasing the abuser continues. If you don’t keep up your end of some bullshit bargain you made in therapy, they will see this as an excuse to keep abusing you.

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They are totally cool with their abuse

(no matter how much they apologise…)

An abuser is completely fine with how they treat their partner. They may hide it from other people because they think it will make them look bad, or other people won’t like it, but they feel 100%, completely justified. They always have a reason they think is good enough.

Abuse tends to escalate over time because abusers aren’t all psychopaths; they have feelings they have to distance themselves from if they’re to keep control of their partner. As they objectify their victim, they become more comfortable with their behaviour, which is why it usually begins with emotional and mental abuse and escalates physically further down the line.

16 DaysLauren Aitchison