Lundy Bancroft wrote a fabulous book entitled “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men”. It’s the go-to book on abusers and a great read. It’s 408 pages long. So, obviously I’m not going to be able to cover all information as to why an abuser abuses in a short blog post. But I’ll give it a shot. Here are points from Mr. Bancroft’s book as well as my perspective as a former victim.
There are many excuses given, if the abuser even feels the need to give an excuse. Among them are; he was abused as a child, he has anger management issues, he has a substance abuse problem, it is acceptable in his culture to ‘discipline a woman’, he’s ‘the man’ of the house… and the list goes on. However, none of those excuses are reasons to abuse, because there is no reason to abuse.
It all boils down to power and control.
As Mr. Bancroft states in his book, “Abusers thrive on creating confusion, including confusion about the abuse itself. Feelings do not govern abusive or controlling behavior; beliefs, values and habits are the driving force.”
So, the answer is simply, abusers abuse because it’s a choice they make. We know that because early in the relationship they are charming and loving, attentive and kind. They chose to be that way so that they can lure the victim in. But they don’t stay that way, although they can revert back to that often to keep the victim hooked and off balance. It’s not that they CAN’T stop abusing, it’s that they chose to KEEP abusing. They don’t want to give up the control they have over you and the power than comes along with it.
Of course, they will always blame the victim or someone else for their behavior. It’s never their fault and if someone else hadn’t done…_________________ (whatever, fill in the blank) THEY wouldn’t have reacted in an abusive way.
An abuser will get verbally abusive when the victim tries to reason with him because he has no intention of listening to your perspective. He will sometimes escalate these conversations into physical abuse and then blame the victim for causing it to get that far. They find abusiveness rewarding; it puts them in a position of privilege.
Abusers also drive wedges between people. They like to keep the victim isolated and will cause discord between children and their mothers and between victims and their friends and family to achieve that isolation. It’s easier to control a victim if they are not getting input from others and there’s less chance of a victim telling anyone what is happening in the home. Not letting the victim have their own voice is just another form of abuse.
So, why do abusers seem so normal, so charming and so likeable to others, outside of the abusive relationship? It’s all a part of their scheme. Just as they were at the beginning of the relationship, they use their “good side” to win people over. This makes believing the victim very difficult. And when people take a neutral stance when they find out about the abuse, they are in effect, taking the side of the abuser and abandoning the victim. Rarely will a victim make up claims of abuse. Almost always, if a victim has spoken up about the abuse, they will minimize it.
Is it possible for an abuser to stop abusing? The simple answer is yes. But he has to see himself as an abuser and want to change. It’s not a superficial, “I’ll try harder to control my temper” type of change. It’s a down-to-the-core, I-have-to-change-my-ideas-and-values-and-attitudes change. And it can only come from him. Sadly, it happens very, very rarely.