Archive of ‘Conflict’ category

Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 3

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Welcome back to our discussion on the myths about domestic violence. We continue our focus on the myths about abusive men, specifically myths about what causes abusive men to be abusive. As before, information for the blog is taken from the book “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. Please visit http://www.lundybancroft.com for more information.

Myth #7: He holds in his feelings too much.

This is often referred to as “The Boiler Theory of Men” – that men keep their emotions pent up inside and that in time they are bound to blow up. The truth is that most abusive men are actually quite the opposite in respect to their feelings, and they have an exaggerated idea of how important their feelings are. They talk about their feelings and act them out all the time, until those who are on the receiving end, their partners and children, are exhausted from it. It is not their feelings that are the problem, but their thinking and their attitudes about the feelings of others. They are too distant from their partner’s and children’s feelings rather than their own. This “boiler theory” appears to make sense because abusive men often follow a pattern of withdrawing, saying less and less, and then they appear to boil over and erupt in yelling, put-downs and other abusive behaviors. However the mounting tension is actually driven by his lack of empathy for the feelings of his partner and children, and then he gives himself permission to explode.

Myth #8: He has an aggressive personality.

It is understandable why this would be an attractive myth to believe – if it were true it would make it much easier to women to decrease the chances of ending up in an abusive relationship. However, the majority of abusers are often quite responsible calm when dealing with affairs and people unrelated to their partners. For most abusers, but not all, they do not get aggressive with individuals other than their partners. This actually is a contributing factor to why many women stay feel trapped in abusive relationships – their partners are calm and gentle people outside of the home, it’s so hard to believe they could be so different behind closed doors. This is one of the manipulative, twisted aspects of abusive partners and it serves to ensure their partners will not reach out for support.

This myth is perpetuated by the societal stereotype that abusers are relatively uneducated and blue-collar men. This is not only an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it overlooks the fact that a college-educated or professional man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing his partner as anyone else. The truth is, the more educated the abuser is, the more knots he can tie in his partner’s mind, the better he is at getting her to put the blame on herself for his behavior, and the slicker he is at being able to persuade others that she is crazy. Also, and this is a very important point, the more socially powerful an abuser, the more powerful his abuse can be – he has more influence and has more pull in the public eye, and this makes it much more difficult for his partner to escape.

Myth #9: He has low self-esteem.

Many would like to believe that abusive behavior is the result of the abusive man feeling bad about himself, having low self-esteem. This misconception leads the victim to do what she can to boost his confidence. However, this only makes the problem worse. Abusive men expect being catered to, and the more positive attention they receive, the more they demand. Thus, the self-esteem myth is ultimately rewarding to the abuser – it gets his partner, his therapist and others involved to cater to him emotionally.

Myth #10: He is too angry.

Perhaps the most common myth about abusive men is that they have anger management problems, that they are abusive because they are unable to appropriately cope with and manage their anger. The cause and effect belief usually looks like this: He is abusive because he is angry. However, this is the reverse of the truth – he is angry because he is abusive. Everybody gets angry and most have, on occasion, gotten too angry, where their anger is out of proportion to an event or beyond what is healthy for them. Some get ulcers, hypertension and heart attacks as a result. However, these individuals do not necessarily abuse their partners. An abusive partner’s anger can be misleading, in that it diverts the attention away from all the disrespect, irresponsibility, lying, talking over you, and other abusive and controlling behaviors he displays, even when he isn’t particularly upset.

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Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 2

Today’s blog continues our discussion of myths about abusers in domestic violence relationships. This blog will continue all through the month of October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As in the first Domestic Violence blog, information is taken from the book “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. Please visit http://www.lundybancroft.com for more information.

Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Myth #4: He is mentally ill.

When it comes to abusive men, it is not their psychology that is unhealthy, it is their value system. Abusive men hold very distorted values about how their partners should act and should be treated. They believe in strict gender roles and a power differential in relationships, in which he, the man, is the dominant party in the relationship and should, above all else, be respected – and to be respected means to be submitted to and not to be questioned. As with alcohol and drugs, mental illness does not cause abuse, but it can certainly escalate the abuse. The problem is that if an abusive man does in fact have a mental illness, it interacts with his abusiveness to create a volatile and dangerous combination. Another important point made by Bancroft: “A man whose destructive behaviors are confined primarily or entirely to intimate relationships is an abuser, not a psychiatric patient.” Whom he abuses is his choice, a choice that is fully in his control, an issue that is discussed further in regard to the next myth.

Myth #5: He loses control.

Often after a violent episode, which may range from a verbal attack to breaking things in the home to physical violence, an abuser will often say that he “just lost control.” However, when Bancroft discusses his work with abusive men, he sheds light on some important points. Often when abusers “lose control” like this, there are signs that they are actually very calculating about their behavior: they destroy only property that does not belong to them, they are sure to keep the abuse behind closed doors, and they are often very aware of their surroundings. Bancroft points out that “an abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable… an abuser’s core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong” (p. 35). The problem with an abusive man is that he believes that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable.

When Bancroft asked abusive men in his groups what stopped them from taking the violence further than they did, some common explanations were:

“I wouldn’t want to cause her a serious injury.”

“I realized one of the children was watching.”

“I was afraid someone would call the police.”

“The fight was getting loud, and I was afraid the neighbors would hear. “

“I could kill her if I did that.”

These responses show just how aware and in control abusers are when they are engaged in a violent episode. They are making calculated decisions based on the circumstances. Again, remember that Ray Rice waited until he and Janay were in the elevator and the doors had shut before he chose to attack her.

Myth #3: He abuses those he loves the most. He’s abusive because he feels so strongly about me.

It is often true that we may feel stronger emotions involving those we care about the most, however this does not excuse abuse. Feelings do not cause behavior. We are all responsible for how we choose to respond to our feelings. And abuse is a choice, it is not something one is “driven to.” The only exception to this rule is that those who are severely traumatized or have major mental illnesses may have their behavior governed by feelings – however, this is in relation to all other individuals, meaning they are reactive towards everyone, not just their partners.

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Myths About Domestic Violence: Part 1

With the recent events involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, the epidemic of domestic violence has been in the spotlight of America. Various parties throughout the past few months have given many opinions and beliefs about domestic violence, more so in the past few weeks since a video of Ray Rice brutally attacking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. Having spent most of my counseling career working with women and children who have experienced domestic violence, this has certainly stirred up a lot for me. There are several myths about domestic violence that are perpetuated by in the media and I think it is important to identify these are myths that many Americans believe to be true.

Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

So, lets take a look at these myths about domestic violence and set some things straight. This conversation will be split into 3 parts, as there are over a dozen myths to be discussed. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that for the purposes of this discussion, I will be referring to the abusive party as a man and the victim as a woman. This is because the vast majority of abusers are men and their victims are women. However, it is also important to note that abuse also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. The information for these blogs is taken from the book, “Why Does He Do That: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” by Lundy Bancroft. This is one of the most widely used texts utilized by experts in the field of domestic violence. To learn more about Mr. Bancroft and his extensive work with abusive men, please click on this link: http://www.lundybancroft.com.

Now onto the myths:

Myth #1: He was abused as a child.

Research has shown there to be a weak connection between childhood abuse and later abusive behavior. The fact is that experiencing abuse in childhood does not cause a man to later become abusive towards his partners. The only influence of child abuse on later abusive behaviors is that men who are already abusive have a propensity to be more violently abusive if they experienced abuse in childhood. It is not uncommon for abusive men to use negative and often traumatic experiences in their childhood to explain their abusive behaviors, but this is actually a way to escape taking responsibility for their actions. Non-abusive men do not use their past as an excuse to mistreat their partners.

Myth #2: His previous partner hurt him.

As discussed previously, in that abusive men often use past incidents or relationships as excuses for their current abusive behaviors. Someone who was genuinely mistreated in a previous relationship would not be using that experience to get away with hurting others. An important point to remember about abuse, if it is an excuse for mistreatment, it’s a distortion.

Myth #3: He abuses alcohol or drugs.

Many individuals wish to believe that alcohol or drugs cause a person to become abusive. I completely understand why this myth would be so prevalent – “If he can get sober, then the abuse will stop.” It would be so much easier to accept it is something outside of the abuser, controlling him, such as alcoholism or drug addiction, to explain his behaviors. And this myth can provide hope that an abuser really can change if this aspect of his life is changed. However, it is simply not true. The fact of the matter is that alcohol and drugs cannot make an abuser, and thus sobriety cannot cure one. An abusive man must deal with his abusiveness in order to overcome his abusiveness.

I hope this introduction to the myths about domestic violence has sparked piqued interest in the readers at home into the true nature of domestic violence. Next week we will look at more myths about domestic violence. If you or someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Following are some links for resources in the Austin area and you are also encouraged to contact us at Austin Family Counseling.

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