Excerpts Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft
“If I were asked to select one salient characteristic of my abusive clients, an aspect of their nature that stands out above all the others, I would choose this one: They feel profoundly justified.”
“He doesn’t mean to hurt me-he just loses control.”
“He can be sweet and gentle.”
“He’s scared me a few times, but he never hurts the children – he’s a
“He’s had a really hard life…”
Women in abusive relationships tell themselves these things every day.
“The Power of those wonderful early months. Like any love-struck person, she runs around telling her friends and family what a terrific guy he is. After talking him up so much, she feels embarrassed to reveal his mistreatment when it begins, so she keeps it to herself for a long time.”
“Occasionally an abused woman may decide to touch her partner off herself at this point, as scary as that is, because the fear of waiting to see what he will do and when he will do it is worse.”
“Because of the distorted perceptions that the abuser has of rights and responsibilities in relationships, he considers himself to be the victim. Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or the children, or efforts they make to stand up for their rights, he defines as aggression against him. He is often highly skilled at twisting his descriptions of events to create the convincing impression that he has been victimized. He thus accumulates grievances over the course of the relationship to the same extent that the victim does, which can lead professionals to decide that the members of the couple ‘abuse each other’ and that the relationship has been ‘mutually hurtful’.”
“Few abusive men rely entirely on verbal abuse or intimidation to control their partners. Being a nonstop bully is too much work, and it makes the man look bad. If he is abusive all the time, his partner starts to recognize that she’s being abused, and the man may feel too guilty about his behavior. The abuser therefore tends to switch frequently to manipulating his partner to get what he wants. He may also sometimes use these tactics just to get her upset or confused. Your partner’s abusive incidents may follow no pattern, so you can never guess what will happen next…Random abuse can be particularly deleterious psychologically to you and to your children.”
“If we want abusers to change, we will have to require them to give up the luxury of exploitation.”
“Life with an abuser can be a dizzying wave of exciting good times and painful periods of verbal, physical, or sexual assault. The longer the relationships lasts, the short and farther apart the positive periods tent to become.”
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Mr. Right considers himself the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun; you might call him “Mr. Always Right.” He speaks with absolute certainty, brushing your opinions aside like annoying gnats. He seems to see the world as a huge classroom, in which he is the teacher and you are his student. He finds little of value in your thoughts or insights, so he seeks to empty out your head and fill it with his jewels of brilliance. When Mr. Right sits in one of my groups for abusive men, he often speaks of his partner as if she were in danger from her own idiocy and needs to save her from herself. Mr. Right has difficulty speaking to his partner – or about her – without a ring of condescension to his voice. And in a conflict his arrogance gets even worse.
When Mr. Right’s partner refuses to defer to his sophisticated knowledge, he is like to escalate to insulting her, calling her names, or mocking her with imitation. If he’s still not satisfied that he has brought her down low enough, he may reach for bigger guns such as ruining evening plans, leaving places without her, or saying bad things about her to other people. If he is physically assaultive, then this is the time he may throw things, raise fists, or attack violently. In short, Mr. Right finds some way to ensure that his partner regrets her insistence on having her own mind. Mr. Right in some respects is a less violent and frightening version of the Drill Sergeant (see P. 86), but Mr. Right’s control tends to be especially focused on telling his partner how to think. His partner feels suffocated by his control, as if he were watching her every move under a microscope. Mr. Right tries to sanitize his bullying by telling me. “I have strong opinions” or “I like debating ideas.” This is like a bank robber saying “I’m interested in financial issues.” Mr. Right isn’t interested in debating idea, he wants to impose his own.
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The Drill Sergeant takes controlling behavior to its extreme, running his partner’s life in every way that he can. He criticizes her clothing, tells her whether she can go out or not, interferes with her work. He wants her to have no one close to her, so he ruins her relationships with friends and relatives or simply forbids her to see them. He may listen to her phone calls or read her mail, or require the children to report on her activities any time he is away. If she isn’t home by his appointed curfew at night, she is at risk for abuse. She feels like a little girl living with a tyrannical father, with no more freedom than an eight-year-old would have.
The Drill Sergeant is often fanatically jealous…
The Drill Sergeant is, unfortunately, almost sure to be physically violent, sooner or later, probably beginning with threats and then eventually escalating to assault. If his partner stands up to him, such as by attempting to preserve any of her rights to freedom, his violence and threats are likely to escalate until she is hurt or terrified enough that she submits to his control. He is a risk to beat his partner up to the point of severe injury.
Mom, Dad and their children are having dinner on a Wednesday night.
Dad is snappy and irritable, criticizing everybody during the meal, spreading his tension around like electricity. When he finishes eating, he leaves the table abruptly and heads out of the room. His ten-year-old daughter says. “Dad, where are you going? Wednesday is your night to wash the dishes.” Upon hearing these words, Dad bursts into flames, screaming, “You upstart little shit, don’t you dare try to tell me what to do! You’ll be wearing a dish on your face!” He grabs a plate off the table, makes like he is going to throw it at her, and then turns away and smashes it on the floor. He knocks a chair over with his hand and storms out of the room. Mom and the children are left trembling, the daughter bursts into tears. Dad reappears in the doorway and yells that she’d better shut up, so she chokes off her tears, which causes her to shake even more violently. Without touching a soul, Dad has sent painful shock waves through the entire family. We move ahead now to the following Wednesday. Dinner passes fairly normally, without the previous week’s tension, but Dad
still strolls out of the kitchen when he finishes eating. Does a family member remind him that it’s his turn to wash the dishes? Of course not. It will be many, many months before anyone makes that mistake again. … Dad’s scary behaviour has created a context in which he won’t have to do the dishes anytime he doesn’t feel like it, and no one will dare take him to task for it. … The abusive man gains power.”
Risk of neglectful or irresponsible parenting. Batterers often have difficulty focusing on their children’s needs, due to their selfish and self-centered tendencies (Jacobson & Gottman, 1998). In post-separation visitation situations these parenting weaknesses can be accentuated, as batterers may be caring for children for much longer periods of time than they are accustomed to. Additionally, many of our battering clients have used intentionally neglectful parenting as a way to win their children’s loyalty, for example by not imposing appropriate safety or eating guidelines, or by permitting the children to watch inappropriate violence or sexuality in media.
ASSESSING RISK TO CHILDREN FROM BATTERERS
Lundy Bancroft and Jay G. Silverman
The partner and children of a batterer will, however, experience
generalizable characteristics, though he may conceal these aspects of his attitude and behavior when other people are present: The batterer is controlling; he insists on having the last word in arguments and decision-making, he may control how the family’s money is spent, and he may make rules for the victim about her movements and personal contacts, such as forbidding her to use the telephone or to see certain friends. He is manipulative; he misleads people inside and outside of the family about his abusiveness, he twists arguments around to make other people feel at fault, and he turns into a sweet, sensitive person for extended periods of time when he feels that it is in his best interest to do so. His public image usually contrasts sharply with the private reality. He is entitled; he considers himself to have special rights and privileges not applicable to other family members.