In understanding the character of an abuser, first realize that any confrontation with the abuser may result in enhanced danger to the victim.
If an abuser is confronted, he will feel that you are exposing something that he has worked hard to hide, resulting in shaming or enraging him, which will be dangerous to the victim. Even as you try to understand the abuser, focus on the safety of the victim.
Here are symptoms that an abusive person may exhibit:
- He may have a charming, believable personality.
- He may have come from an abusive past.
- He may have an explosive temper.
- He may be unwilling to express his true feelings.
- He may be a heavy drinker or drug user.
- He may blame other people for his loss of control or his problems.
- He may isolate his wife or partner from family and friends.
- He may belittle his wife or partner, make fun of her, her clothing, or her likes.
- He may make false claims that his wife or partner has mental issues, or is cheating on him with someone else.
- He may be in control of the household finances, and in control of his wife’s or partner’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- He may work very hard on managing his “image” in the community; often, the other people view him as a “great guy”.
Understand that an abuser never has an excuse to harm his partner, no matter how plausibly he states the reason for it. Don’t express sympathy toward him, as it could result in him justifying his actions to his abuser—even to the point of stating that you agreed to let him continue the abuse. You will not be able to help him change in a casual setting—even though you understand the cycle of abuse—as it usually takes long-term concentrated effort by a professional. Leave investigating to professionals as well; they are trained in how to do this. And don’t assume the abuser has a mental illness; he is acting out of distorted thinking.
Why is it important for a victim to recognize and understand the steps in a cycle of abuse?
Why is it important for an abuser to learn of and acknowledge a cycle of abuse?
What should you never ask an abuser in the presence of the abused?
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“Fragile Soul: Ministering to Victims of Domestic Violence” is published by the National Women’s Department at women.ag.org, 2020. Permission granted to reprint for personal use or within a teaching setting. Do not reproduce.