Characteristics of a Batterer



Many batterers have characteristics that make them prone to violent outbursts.  These characteristics can be identified and worked on or changed by a batterer, but it is very difficult for him* to recognize and admit there is a problem in the first place.  Some people have these characteristics and are not batterers, and some batterers lack these traits.  This list is not a definitive diagnosis and definition of what a batterer is; it merely lists the common characteristics and a brief description of each.


1. Batterers often have low self-esteem.

            Although appearing to be tough and confident, most batterers have low self esteem.  Abusers can actually be very dependent on their partners, becoming abusive, controlling, and jealous when they feel their relationships are being threatened.  Male batterers will overcompensate with hyper-masculinity in order to boost their self-esteem and strengthen their egos.


2. Batterers are excessively jealous.

            It is normal for people to experience some amount of jealousy.  However, batterers mistake the feeling of jealousy as a sign of love, which strengthens their acts of possessiveness.  This leads to their inability to trust their partners even without substantial and legitimate evidence, which differs from healthy relationships.

3. Batterers demonstrate controlling behavior.

            Batterers attempt to control their partners’ decisions and actions.  They may be overly upset about their partners arriving home late from a party, attributing their yelling and aggressive behaviors to merely being concerned for their partners’ safety.  Over time, abusers will make more and more decisions about their partners’ lives, mimicking guardian-child relationships.  They may withhold money and resources from their partners and even determine the clothing their partners wear.  These relationships are unequal in power and can be very unhealthy.


4. Batterers demonstrate cruelty to animals or children.

            Batterers tend to be insensitive to pain experienced by animals or children.  They have very high and unrealistic expectations of animals and children.  To punish children, they may overly tease them.  Abusers can be critical of children their partners have from previous relationships.  Preventing their partners from seeing their children or abusing their partners' children can be a way to control their partners.  Sixty percent of abusers who are violent toward their partners beat their children as well.  Survivors may stay in a relationship because they have children, believing their lives would be worse if they left the abusers.  This, however, is inaccurate; children who are survivors of abuse or constantly witnesses violence in the household have a greater tendency to develop anxiety disorder, mental and physical illnesses, depression, and violent behaviors of their own, mimicking the abuser as they grow older.  It is more beneficial for a guardian to remove a child from an abusive household than to stay with the batterer.

5. Batterers use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress.

            Drugs and alcohol, although not specific causes of the violence, have normally been ingested by batterers when they are being abusive.  When batterers use drugs and alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered, making it more difficult to curb their violent behaviors and desires.  Perpetrators tend to have a higher incident of drug and alcohol abuse than non-batterers.


6. Batterers blame others for their actions.

            Rather than take responsibility for their violent behaviors, batterers blame survivors, telling them, for example, "you made me hit you for your actions and behaviors."  Anything bad or upsetting that occurs in the batterers' lives gets twisted to become the survivors' fault.  Batterers do not believe that they make mistakes.  They also have ways of manipulating survivors and make them believe that the survivors somehow were the causes of the batterers' mistakes; the violence inflicted on the survivors was their negative consequence and punishment.


7. Batterers have poor communication skills.

            Rather than discussing their feelings with their partners in a positive and constructive manner, batterers use violence and threats to express their angers and frustrations.  They can make threats of abuse or literally abuse their partners on the spot when they feel uncomfortable, inadequate, or hurt.  Male batterers are hyper-masculine, and they believe that expressing their thoughts feelings through calm words is a sign of weakness.


8. Batterers isolate partners from their friends and family.

            Batterers want their partners to only be centered on them.  They will separate their partners from significant others by calling survivors derogatory names such as "slut" if they have friends of the opposite gender they spend time with.  Abusers may also create lies about the significant others, making them seem like bad people who are nothing but trouble.  Abusers will limit survivors time contacting their friends and family, claiming it is for their own good.  When survivors are separated from their support systems, they have a more difficult time attempting to leave their relationship because their resources have diminished; they are isolated and dependent on the batterers.

9. Batterers have the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality.

            Batterers are very good actors and can hide their negative attributes from their friends and family, only showing their true self to their partners.  Outside people may even comment that survivors are in wonderful relationships, when in reality, the opposite is true.  This act can make it very difficult for survivors to receive help and support from their significant others.  Sometimes when survivors do disclose abuse, significant others will deny the stories or blame survivors for making the batterers angry, which justifies abusers' violent actions.  This response can make survivors prone to believing the myths about batterers and create even more self blame.


10. Batterers are hyper-masculine.

            Batterers demonstrate traditional gender roles.  As the men of the house, they expect to have power and control over all individuals in their home.  Even with sexual activities, they enjoy dominating their partners through force. Abusers believe that their inferior partners are present to satisfy their desires like servants.


11. Batterers are hypersensitive.

            Batterers take unpleasant yet normal living experiences, from waking up early to go to work to being asked to help with household chores, as personal attacks.  They are easily insulted and will vocalize their feelings through harsh language and also use violence.


*We use feminine pronouns to describe survivors and masculine pronouns to describe batterers because a majority of domestic abuse cases involve males abusing females.  The characteristics of a batterer can be applied to all persons, and some females are the batterers while some males are the survivors.