{August 28, 2012}   Portrait of a Batterer

Batterers often think that they are so unique and so above other people that they don’t have to follow the same rules of behavior as everyone else. But batterers have a lot in common with each other. Here are 18 patterns of behavior that abusers often share.

I found this information on the website of the Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service. The information is intended to help identify domestic male batterers of women but applies equally to child abusers. (The pronouns have been changed from “Him” to “Her” or “Them”.) This information can help identify the traits that batterers have common.

Excuse Making

Instead of accepting responsibility for their actions, the abuser tries to justify his behavior with excuses. For example: “When I walked in and saw this mess, I lost my temper” or “I couldn’t let her talk to me that way.”


The abuser shifts responsibility for their actions from themselves and onto others, a shift that allows them to justify abuse because the other person supposedly “caused” the behavior. For example: “If you would just shut up and act right, I would stop hitting you.” Or they may say, “She pushes my buttons.” Statements like this are victim blaming.


In a variation on the tactic of blaming, the abuser redefines the situation so that the problem is not with him/her but with others. For example, the abuser doesn’t show up for an appointment at 6 p.m. as she said she would; instead, she comes at 9 p.m. Then she says, “l didn’t think you would be here anyway. You don’t like to do this.”

Success Fantasies

The abuser believes she would be more successful if only other person wasn’t holding them back. He/she uses this belief to justify the abuse. The abuser also puts other people down verbally as a way of making themselves look superior.


The abuser controls the situation by lying to control the information available. The abuser also may use lying to keep other people, including the victim, off-balance psychologically.


Abusive people often assume they know what others are thinking or feeling. Their assumption allows them to justify their behavior because they “know” what the other person would think or do in a given situation.

Above the Rules

An abuser generally believes he/she is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules that ordinary people do. That attitude is typical of convicted criminals, too. Each inmate in a jail typically believes that while all the other inmates are criminals, he himself is not. An abuser shows “above-the-rules” thinking when he says, for example, “Nobody has the right to question what I do to my own child in my own home.”

Making Fools of Others

The abuser combines tactics to manipulate others. The tactics include lying, upsetting the other person just to watch his or her reactions, and encouraging a fight between  others. They may try to charm the person they want to manipulate, pretending a lot of interest or concern for that person in order to get on her or his good side.


The abuser usually keeps the abusive behavior separate from the rest of their life. For example, the abuser attends church Sunday morning but beats her children on Sunday night. She sees no inconsistency in her behavior and feels justified in it.


The abuser ducks responsibility for their actions by trying to make them seem less important than they are. For example, “I didn’t hit you that hard” or ‘I only hit you hard enough for you to learn.”


Thinking and speaking vaguely lets the abuser avoid responsibility. For example, “I’m late because I had some things to do on the way home.”


Abusive people are not actually angrier than other people. They deliberately appear to be angry in order to control situations and people.

Power Plays

The abuser uses various tactics to power trip others. For instance, she walks out of the room when the victim is talking, or out-shouts the victim, or organizes other family members to “gang up” on the victim in shunning or criticizing her.

Playing Victim

Occasionally the abuser will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate others into helping him/her. Here, the abuser thinks that if she doesn’t get what she wants, she is the victim. She uses the disguise of victim to get back at or make fools of others. Abusers will often claim to be the victim in order to avoid being held accountable by law enforcement. He/she may assert that the victim was the one who was violent. He/she will display what are clearly defensive wounds, such as bite marks or scratch marks, and claim the victim “attacked” him/her. Or she will declare that the physical marks on the victimwere caused when she was trying to keep them from hurting him/her self.

Drama and Excitement

Abusive people often do not have close relationships with other people. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Abusive people find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they’ll use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.

Closed Channel

The abusive person does not tell much about herself and her real feelings. She is not open to new information about herself, either, such as insights into how others see her. He/she is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. She believes she is right in all situations.


The abuser typically is very possessive. Moreover, she believes that anything she wants should be hers, and she can do as she pleases with anything that is hers. That attitude applies to people as well as to possessions. It justifies the controlling behavior, physically hurting others, and taking things that don’t belong to them.


The abuser usually thinks of him/herself as strong, superior, independent, and self-sufficient. When anyone says or does anything that doesn’t fit this glorified self-image, the abuser takes it as an insult.

© Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service


eliza says:

Who knew that Mid Valley Crisis Services knew lucinda?

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