Predictors of Domestic Violence - How to Avoid Physical Abuse in a Relationship
An Ounce of Prevention
If you, like me, have been hit by your boyfriend, fiancee, or husband and have broken up with the abuser, you may be hesitant to date again. Some of us seem to attract abusive types. That can be helped by developing positive self-esteem and an assertive demeanor, both of which are beyond the scope of this article, but I'll give references that helped me at the end of this hub. What you can do immediately is to protect yourself from getting into another abusive relationship. There are lots of decent, loving, good guys out there. You need to be available for positive relationships by staying out of the bad ones.
The most important rule is not to commit (engagement or living together) to anyone unless you've been seeing them regularly for at least six months. In this time, keep a lookout for the warning signs that follow. (Guys, the characteristics in this article will predict an abusive woman, too. Just change the pronouns.) This checklist comes from a local woman's shelter and counseling service.
If you notice any of the last four signs, run, don't walk, away from the relationship. The person is likely a batterer. For the other signs, three or more shows signs of danger, or even two if the traits are very exaggerated like extreme jealousy over ridiculous things. For example, you come home from work 5 minutes late and he's sure you were kissing your ex-boyfriend in an alley for those 5 minutes no matter how reasonable your explanation is.
1. JEALOUSY: Early on, an abuser will explain his jealousy as a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it's a sign of insecurity and possessiveness. He will question the woman about who she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of time she spends with family, friends, or children. He may call her frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may refuse to let her work for fear she'll meet someone else. He may check her car mileage or ask friends to watch her.
2. CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first an abuser will express concern over the woman's safety. He may want to know every detail about her day. As this behavior worsens, he may not let the woman make personal decisions about the house, her clothing, or going to church. He may keep all the money. He may require she ask permission before leaving the house.
3. QUICK INVOLVEMENT: He may claim love at first sight and flatter the woman with such words as, "You're the only one I can talk to." or "I've never been loved like this before." He has unmet emotional needs, and will pressure the woman to commit to him before the reasonable six months of getting-to-know-each-other time.
4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: He will expect the woman to meet all his needs perfectly, saying, "I'm all you need -- you're all I need." She must be the perfect wife, lover, mother, and friend.
5. ISOLATION: The man tries to cut the woman off from all resources. If she has men friends, she is a "whore." If she has women friends, she is a "lesbian." Family she is close to are "trouble-makers." He may want to live in the country without a phone. He may not let her use the car, work, or go to school.
6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR HIS PROBLEMS: If he doesn't have a job, it's because someone is out to get him. If he makes a mistake, it's because the woman distracted him. Eventually, everything will be her fault.
7. BLAMES OTHERS FOR HIS FEELINGS: He will say, "I can't help being angry when you don't do what I say." Though he's actually responsible for his own feelings, he'll try to use them to manipulate the woman.
8. HYPERSENSITIVITY: He is easily insulted. He may rant and rave about perceived injustices. He may see being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, or being asked to help with chores as an affront.
9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: He is insensitive to the pain of animals or children. He expects children to behave as if they were much older, perhaps beating a sixteen-month-old for wetting a diaper. He may expect children to stay in their room all evening while he is home.
10. "PLAYFUL" USE OF FORCE IN SEX: He may want to act out sexual fantasies where the woman is helpless, throwing or holding her down. He may show little concern over whether the woman wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate her into compliance. He may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping, or demand sex when she is ill or tired.
11. VERBAL ABUSE: He may degrade the woman, cursing her, running down her accomplishments. He will tell her she is stupid and unable to function without him. He may interrupt her sleep to say cruel and hurtful things.
12. RIGID SEX ROLES: He will expect the woman to obey him in all things, perhaps even things that are criminal. He will see the woman as inferior to men, unable to be a whole person without a man.
What should have clued me in about my abuser was that he was too good to be true at first.
And remember: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If he hit you once, he'll hit you again.
The book that helped me build my self-esteem is "The Self-Esteem Companion" by McKay, Fanning, et al. Another helpful book is "The Self-Esteem Workbook" by Schiraldi.
If you are currently in a relationship where you are hit, please call the national domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.