Profiling Abusers
David Adams, EdD – Co-director, Emerge Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence, Boston, Mass. recently spoke at the Continuing Legal Education Society’s Domestic Violence and the Law Conference on May 27, 2011 in Vancouver. Mr. Adams spoke on the Myths of Abusers and the Reality of an Abuser, both of which are listed below.

EMERGE seeks to educate individual abusers, prevent young people from learning to accept violence in their relationships, improve institutional responses to domestic violence, and increase public awareness about the causes and solutions to partner violence. With the development of parenting education groups for fathers, Emerge has expanded its mission to include a goal of helping men to become more responsible parents.

Emerge teaches that domestic violence is a learned behavior, not a disease or a sickness. Emerge supports grassroots, institutional and cultural efforts to stop partner violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Emerge recognizes that other oppressive life circumstances such as racism, poverty and homophobia create a climate that contributes to partner violence.

MYTH REALITY
1 ) Abusive men are easy to identify: They come across as angry, hot tempered, “macho” or have a criminal record. 1 ) Most abusers are never identified. Most project a different persona outside the family. Only a small proportion are arrested and only 1/4 are generally violent.
2 ) Abusers have a problem with anger. 2 ) Domestic Violence is more about control than anger.
3 ) Batterers lack skills: anger management skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, psychological awareness. 3 ) Abusiveness is a skill encompassing control, manipulation, and image maintenance.
4 ) Abusers often suffer from low self-esteem. 4 ) Narcissism is the more common issue White and Gndolf (2000). 50% on narcissistic spectrum vs. 26% on insecure/dependent spectrum.
5 ) The majority of abusers have mental health problems. 5 ) Most do not have mental health problems Gondolf (2000).
6 ) Abusers who express remorse are more likely to change. 6 ) Abusers commonly attempt to manipulate those who intervene with denial and minimization, excuses, quick-fix strategies, and expressions of remorse. Remorse and apologies are a part of the cycle of abuse.
7 ) If the violence has only occurred once, there isn’t a pattern. 7 ) Most often, the first incident that comes to light isn’t the first incident. Both the victim and the abuser may be minimizing; there may be a prior history of nonphysical abuse.
8 ) Abusers don’t change. 8 ) In Massachusetts, outcomes for certified batterer intervention programs are better than anger management programs and substance abuse only interventions. Outcomes are enhanced with strong support.
9 ) Just because a person has abused his partner doesn’t mean he is a bad parent. 9 ) There are two important aspects of parenting: i. how you treat your children; ii) how you treat the other parent of your children. Children are greatly affected by both of these. Boys who grow up witnessing their fathers seriously abusing their mothers are 10 times more likely to abuse others in their adult relationships.
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