Many women are interested in ways they can predict whether they are about to become involved
with someone who will be physically abusive. Usually battering occurs between a man and a
woman, but lesbians and gays can be battered too.
Initially, the batterer will
try to explain his/her behavior as signs of his/her love and concern, and a woman may be
flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviors become more severe and serve to dominate and
control the woman.
Below is a list of behaviors that are seen
in people who beat their girlfriends/wives; the last four signs listed are battering, but
many women don’t realize this is the beginning of physical abuse. If the person has several
of the other behaviors (say three or more) there is a strong potential for physical
violence --- the more signs the person has, the more likely the person is a batterer. In some
cases, a batterer may have only a couple of behaviors that the woman can recognize, but they
are exaggerated (e.g., extreme jealousy over ridiculous things).
At the time of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love; jealousy has nothing to do with love, it’s a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. He will question the woman about whom she spends time with -- family, friends, or children. As the jealousy progresses, s/he may call her frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. S/he may refuse to let her work for fear she’ll meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors such as checking her mileage or asking friends to watch her.
2. CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR
At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because s/he’s concerned for the woman’s safety, her need to use her time well, or her need to make good decisions. S/he will be angry if the woman is “late” coming back from the store or an appointment, s/he will question her closely about where she went, and whom she talked to. As this behavior gets worse, s/he may not let the woman make personal decisions about the house, her clothing, going to church; s/he may keep all the money or even make her ask permission to leave the house or room.
3. QUICK INVOLVEMENT
Many battered women dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were married, engaged, or living together. S/he comes on like a whirlwind claiming, “You’re the only person I could ever talk to,” “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” S/he will pressure the woman to commit to the relationship in such a way that later the woman may feel very guilty or that she’s “letting him down” if she wants to slow down involvement or break off.
4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all of their needs; s/he expects the woman to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, and friend. S/he will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all you need --- you’re all I need.” She is supposed to take care of everything for him/her emotionally and in the home.
The abusive person tries to cut the woman off from all resources. If she has men friends, she’s a “whore;” if she has women friends, she’s a lesbian; if she’s close to family, she’s “tied to the apron strings.” S/he accuses people who are the woman’s supports of “causing trouble,” s/he may want to live in the country without a phone, s/he may not let her use a car (or have one that is reliable), or s/he may try to keep the woman from working or going to school.
6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS
If s/he is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing him/her wrong, out to get him/her. He/she may make mistakes and then blame the woman for upsetting him/her and keeping him/her from concentrating on the work. S/he will tell the woman she is at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.
7. BLAMES OTHERS FOR FEELINGS
S/he will tell the woman “You make me mad,” “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want you to do,” “I can’t help being angry.” S/he really makes the decision about what s/he thinks or feels, but will use feelings to manipulate the woman. Harder to catch are claims that “You make me happy,” or “You control how I feel.”
An abuser is easily insulted. S/he claims their feelings are “hurt” when really h/she’s very mad or s/he takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. S/he will “rant and rave” about the injustice of things that happen --- things that are really just a part of life, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told a behavior is annoying, being asked to help with chores.
9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN
This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain or suffering; s/he may expect children to be able to do things beyond their ability (whips a two year old for wetting a diaper) or s/he may tease children or young brothers or sisters until they cry (60% of men who beat the women they’re living with also beat their children). S/he may not want children to sit at the table or expect them to stay in their room all evening while s/he is home.
10. “PLAYFUL” USE OF FORCE IN SEX
This kind of person may like to throw the woman down and hold her down during sex. S/he may want to act out fantasies during sex where the woman is helpless. S/he’s letting her know that the idea of rape is exciting. S/he may show little concern about whether the woman wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate her into compliance. S/he may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping, or demand sex when she is ill or tired.
11. VERBAL ABUSE
In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen when the abuser degrades the woman, cursing her, calling her names and running down her accomplishments. The abuser will tell the woman she’s stupid and unable to function without him/her. This may involve waking the woman up to verbally abuse her or not letting her sleep.
12. RIGID SEX ROLES
The abuser expects a woman to serve them; s/he may say the woman must stay at home; she must obey all things --- even things that are criminal in nature. The abuser will see women as inferior to men, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
13. DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Many women are confused by their abuser’s “sudden” changes in mood --- they may think the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute s/he’s nice and the next minute s/he’s exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who beat their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.
14. PAST BATTERING
An abuser may have hit women in the past, but “they made him/her do it.” The woman may hear from relatives or ex-spouses/girlfriends that the person is abusive. A batterer will beat any woman they’re with if the woman is with them long enough for violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person abusive.
15. BREAKING OR STRIKING OBJECTS
This behavior is used as punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize the woman into submission. The user may beat on tables with his/her fists, throw objects around or near the woman. Again, this is very remarkable behavior --- not only is this sign of extreme emotionally immaturity, but there’s great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten their wife/girlfriend.
16. ANY FORCE DURING AN ARGUMENT
This may involve a batterer holding a woman down, physically restraining her from leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. They may hold the woman against the wall and say, “You’re going to listen to me!”