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Predictors of Domestic Violence

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has prepared the following information regarding signs that occur before actual abuse that might serve as clues to potential abuse.

People who grow up in families where they have been abused as children or where one parent, usually the father, beats the other are more likely to become batterers, child abusers, or both. They have grown up learning that violence is normal behavior. Those who come from violent homes may claim they will never behave that way, but often resort to violence when faced with the challenges of intimate relationships and parenting.

A young man who has a criminal record for violence, who gets into fights, or who likes to act tough is likely to act the same way with his partner and children.

Does he overreact to little problems and frustrations, such as not finding a parking place or having a bad seat at the movies?

Does he punch walls or throw things when he’s upset? Any of these behaviors may be a sign of a person who will work out bad feelings through violence. Do not minimize a tendency he may have to be cruel to animals. Cruelty to animals is a common behavior of men who are cruel to women and children.

The Abusive Partner

Who are the Batterers? 
Each year two million women are battered by their husbands or partners. Individuals who abuse their partners are a diverse group. They belong to all age groups, cultures, religions, educational levels, and socioeconomic backgrounds. A batterer could be a brother, co-worker, husband, son, neighbor, or even yourself. Despite this diversity, abusers do share several common characteristics.

Family Background

Family Background Statistics
A violent person was often raised in a violent home:

  • 73% of batterers were abused as children
  • 60% of boys who witness violence in the home grow up to abuse their adult mates


Signs of Typical Batterers
Batterers typically:

  • Suffer from low self-esteem and insecurity.
  • Adhere strictly to stereotypical sex roles.
  • Feel an obsessive need to be “in control.”
  • Express all emotions as anger and act abusively on that anger.
  • Present a “Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde” personality – bouts of violence with periods of tenderness and affection.

In the context of intimate relationships, batterers typically:

  • Are unable to maintain relationships except on a superficial level.
  • Are isolated and often described as “loners.”
  • Are inappropriately jealous of their partner’s friends and contacts.
  • Blame others, particularly their wives or partners, for their own problems.
  • Use sex as an act of aggression to exert control and boost self-esteem.
  • Accept violence as an appropriate solution to conflict.
  • Do not expect their violence to have negative consequences.

The above information was adapted from the work by AMEND, Lenore Walker, and Jennifer Baker Fleming.

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