Abuse is an attempt to control the behaviour of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.
Characteristics of abusive men
The “overarching behavioural characteristic” achieved with criticism, verbal abuse, financial control, isolation, cruelty, etc. (see Power & Control Wheel). May deepen over time or escalate if a woman seeks independence (e.g., going to school).
The “overarching attitudinal characteristic” of abusive men, a belief in having special rights without responsibilities, justifying unreasonable expectations (e.g., family life must centre on his needs). He will feel the wronged party when his needs are not met and justify violence as self-defence.
Selfishness & Self-centredness
An expectation of being the centre of attention, having his needs anticipated. May not support or listen to others.
Contempt for woman as stupid, unworthy, a sex object or as a house keeper.
Seeing a woman and his children as property.
Confusing Love & Abuse
Explaining violence as an expression of his deep love.
A tactic of confusion, distortion and lies. May project image of himself as good, and portray the woman as crazy or abusive.
Contradictory Statements & Behaviours
Saying one thing and doing another, such as being publicly critical of men who abuse women.
Externalization of Responsibility
Shifting blame for his actions and their effects to others, especially the woman, or to external factors such as job stress.
Denial, Minimization, & Victim Blaming
Refusing to acknowledge abusive behaviour (e.g., she fell), not acknowledging the seriousness of his behaviour and its effects (e.g., it’s just a scratch), blaming the victim (e.g., she drove me to it; she made it up because I have a new girlfriend).
Some men are abusive in relationship after relationship.
The cycle of abuse
Domestic violence (also called wife abuse, family violence and partner assault) is rarely a one-time occurrence. It usually takes place as part of a cycle that includes the following phases:
Insults and other verbal attacks; minor abusive situations; victim tries to be compliant, “walks on eggshells,” and feels helpless; atmosphere becomes increasingly more oppressive.
Built-up tensions erupt into incidents ranging from severe verbal/emotional abuse to physical/sexual assault and can last from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the relationship. It is during this time that a woman is most likely to be seriously injured or killed by her partner.
Following a violent episode the abuser is usually contrite and attentive; the victim once again recognizes the person she first fell in love with and may be inclined to believe his promises to change.
Unless there is some form of intervention, the cycle usually repeats itself with the violent episodes escalating in frequency and intensity.
How to tell if you or someone you know is a victim of abuse
• In your relationship, have you ever experienced verbal abuse, including put-downs or threats?
• Have you suffered physical violence such as hitting, pushing, pulling hair, forced sexual contact?
• Has your partner threatened to leave if you don’t do as he asks?
• Does your partner try to isolate you from family and friends?
• Is your partner bossy; does he try to control who you see and what you do?
• Does your partner use guilt trips to get his own way?
• Do you have to explain your whereabouts?
• Does your partner have a bad temper and a history of violence? Does he brag about mistreating others?
• Does your partner blame you when he treats you bad?
• Does your partner have a history of bad relationships?
• Does he believe that men should be in control of his partner and family?
• Does your partner treat you “like dirt” or humiliate you in front of friends and family?
• Are you afraid of your partner? Do you worry about how he will react to what you say or do?
• Does he abuse alcohol or drugs?
• Have your friends or family warned you about him or told you they were worried about your safety?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, your relationship may be abusive. Don’t ignore or minimize these warning signs. Get help
The cycle of violence
• Abuser starts to get angry
• Abuse may begin
• There is a breakdown of communication
• Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm
• Tension becomes too much
• Victim feels like they are “walking on egg shells”
Abuse Takes Place
• Any type of abuse occurs (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal)
Apologies, Excuses, Amends
• Abuser may apologize for abuse
• Abuser may promise it will never happen again
• Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse
• Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims
The cycle can happen hundreds of times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time in a relationship. The total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete.
It is important to remember that not all domestic violence relationships fit the cycle. Often, as time goes on, the Apologies, Excuses, and Amends stages disappear.