Why People Abuse

Abuse is about control, plain and simple. And no matter the cause, domestic abuse is inexcusable.

Why Do People Abuse?

The reasons driving abusers to torment their victims are varied. Some experts believe all abusers are calculated criminals who decide to seek control over their partners, children, and family members. Other experts believe abuse is the manifestation of deep-seated trauma or childhood experiences.

Either way, abuse is a choice. It’s not a mental illness. It’s a decision the batterer makes to assert control over another human being. Whether it’s a learned behavior from childhood or a desire to micromanage every aspect of a relationship, abusers make the conscious judgment to engage in abusive behavior.

Some use abusive tactics to keep partners from leaving a relationship. Others seek control because they believe it’s their right to monitor every aspect of a relationship. Some simply enjoy exerting power over another human being. And some are merely mirroring behaviors they saw in their own families.

Substance abuse problems are sometimes – but not always – associated with an increased risk of domestic violence.

Common Abuser Behaviors

While experts can’t always agree on what drives an abuser’s actions, there are commonalities among their behavior:

    • Abusers are controlling. This control isn’t always about physical violence. Emotional, financial, psychological, verbal, social, and sexual abuse are all forms of domestic violence.
  • Abusers are manipulative. Abusers will make excuses, change the rules to benefit themselves, lie to protect themselves from consequences, and gaslight their victims into thinking the abuse is somehow their fault.
  • Abusers believe they have the right to be in control. Often, they have a misogynistic view of the world and believe their partners are subservient and/or undeserving of respect.
  • Abusers see themselves as victims. They are focused only on their own hurt, whether real or perceived. They manipulate others into believing they are the real victims. They’ll use past experiences as a justification for abuse.

Abusers come from all backgrounds, ethnic groups, socioeconomic groups, and religions.

There Is No Excuse for Abuse

The bottom line, though, is that it doesn’t matter what’s behind the abuse. The abuse is never okay. 

Often, victims of domestic violence become entrenched in the belief that somehow it’s their fault. That is simply and utterly untrue. Domestic violence is never the fault of the victim. The abuser is entirely responsible for the behavior.

If you believe you or a loved one might be experiencing domestic violence, do not wait to get help. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Domestic Abuse Intervention Services.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.


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