Signs of Battering Personality

Adapted From: Project for Victims of Family Violence
P.O. Box 2915, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Many persons are interested in ways that 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 men and women can be battered in any dynamic of a relationship. Below is a list of behaviors that are seen in people who beat their partners; the last four signs listed are battering, but many victims 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 a person has, the more likely the person is a batterer. In some cases, a batterer may have only a couple of behaviors that the victim can recognize, but they are very exaggerated, e.g., will try to explain his/her love and concern, and they may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behavior becomes more severe and serves to dominate and control the victim.

JEALOUSY: At the beginning 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/she will question the partner about whom they talk to, accuse them of flirting, or being jealous of time they spend with family, friends or children. As jealousy progresses, he/she may call the victim frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He/she may refuse to let them work for fear they’ll meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors such as checking their car mileage or asking friends to watch them.

CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because he/she’s concerned for their partner’s safety, they need to use their time well, or the victim needs to make good decisions. He/she will be angry if the victim is “late” coming back from the store or an appointment, he/she will question them closely about where they went, whom they talked to. As this behavior gets worse, he/she may not let the victim make personal decisions about the house, their clothing, going to church; he/she may keep all the money or even make them ask permission to leave the house or room.

QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Many battered persons dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were married, engaged, or living together. He/she 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.” He/she will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship in such a way that later a victim may feel very guilty or that they are “letting them down” if they want to slow down involvement or break-off.

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all their needs: he/she expects the partner to be the perfect wife, boyfriend, mother, father, lover, friend. He/she will say things like “If you loved me, I’m all you need- you’re all I need”. They are supposed to take care of everything for him/her emotionally and in the home.

ISOLATION: The abusive person tries to cut the person off from all resources. If she has men friends, she’s a “whore”, if she has women friends, she’s a lesbian, if they are close to family, they are “tied to the apron strings”. He/she accuses people who are the victim’s supports of “causing trouble”, he/she may want to live in the country without a phone, he/she may not let the victim use the car (or have one that is reliable), or he/she may try to keep the partner from working or going to school.

BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS: If he/she is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing him/her wrong, out to get him/her. He/she may make mistakes and then blame the partner for upsetting him/her and keeping him/her form concentrating on the work. He/she will tell the woman they are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.

BLAMES OTHERS FOR FEELINGS: He/she will tell the partner “you make me mad”, “you’re hurting me by not doing what I want you to do”, “I can’t help being angry”. He /she really makes the decision about what he/she thinks or feels, but will use feelings to manipulate the partner. Harder to catch claims that “you make me happy”, “you control how I feel”.

HYPERSENSITIVITY: An abuser is easily insulted, he/she claims their feelings are “hurt” when really he’s/she’s very mad or he/she takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. He/she will “rant and rave” about the injustice of things that have happened –things that are really just part of living like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told some behavior is annoying, being asked to help with chores.

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain or suffering; he/she may expect children to be capable for doing things beyond their ability (whips a two year old for wetting a diaper) or he/she may tease children or young brothers and sisters until they cry (60% of men who beat the woman they are with also beat their children). He/she may not want children to eat at the table or expect to keep them in their room all evening while he/she is at home.

“PLAYFUL” USE OF FORCE IN SEX: This kind of person may like to throw the partner down and hold them down during sex, he/she may want to act out fantasies during sex where the partner is helpless. He’s/she’s letting them know that the idea of rape is exciting. He/she may show little concern about whether the partner wants to have sex and uses sulking or anger to manipulate them into compliance. He/she may start having sex with the woman while they are sleeping, or demand sex when they are ill or tired.

VERBAL ABUSE: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen when the abuser degrades the victim, cursing them, running down any of their accomplishments. The abuser will tell the victim that they are stupid and unable to function without him/her. This may involve waking the victim up to verbally abuse them or not letting them go to sleep.

RIGID SEX ROLES: The abuser expects a victim to serve them; he/she may say the victim must stay at home, that they must obey in 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.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE: Many victims are confused by their abuser’s “sudden” changes in mood- they may think that the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute he’s/she’s nice and the next he’s/she’s exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who beat their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics like hypersensitivity.

**PAST BATTERING: This person may say he/she has hit partners in the past, but they made him/her do it. The victim may hear from relatives or ex-spouses/girlfriends that the person is abusive. A batterer will beat any partner they’re with if the partner is with him/her long enough for the violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality.

**THREATS OF VIOLENCE: This could include any threat of physical force meant to control the victim: “I’ll slap your mouth off”, “I’ll kill you”, “I’ll break your neck”. Most people do not threaten their mates, but a batterer will try to excuse threats by saying “everybody talks like that”.

**BREAKING OR STRIKING OBJECTS: This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but mostly used to terrorize the partner into submission. The abuser may beat on the table with his/her fist, throw objects around or near the victim. Again, this is very remarkable behavior- not only is this a sign of extreme emotional immaturity, but there’s a great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten their partner.

**ANY FORCE DURING AN ARGUMENT: This may involve a batterer holding a woman down, physically restraining them form leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. They may hold the victim against a wall and say “you’re going to listen to me!”