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Identifying abusive men


How do I know if a man is being abusive? I'm worried about my mother who is widowed and has started dating someone. At times he can be charming, but there is something about him that makes me very uneasy.

Bancroft (2002) defines an abuser as "men who chronically make their partners feel mistreated or devalued." Although Bancroft acknowledges that women can also become abusers, he notes that abusers are predominantly male. The author declares abuse stems from a belief system that shapes a man's attitudes and values. Abuse is not a result of feelings. Abuse is about power, and the goal is control.

According to Bancroft, abuse is produced from "early cultural training, key male role models, and peer influences." To understand the abuse, one needs to understand an abuser's thoughts and thought patterns, not feelings. Bancroft identifies 15 Warning Signs of Abuse:

He speaks disrespectfully about his former partners.

He is disrespectful toward you.

He does favors for you that you don't want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable.

He is controlling.

He is possessive.

Nothing is ever his fault.

He is self-centered.

He abused drugs or alcohol.

He pressures you for sex.

He gets serious too quickly about the relationship.

He intimidates you when he's angry.

He has double standards.

He has negative attitudes toward women.

He treats you differently around other people.

He appears to be attracted to vulnerability.

For a woman involved with an abusive person, it can be painful, confusing and potentially dangerous. Bancroft describes a "repetitive traumatic cycle" beginning with a tension-building phase. During this time he may be charming and things are calm, but this is a time of point-keeping. Grievances are nursed and deposited for safe-keeping until needed. The eruption is next in the cycle, followed by the hearts and flowers stage.

Some abusers do not follow any cycle. Their unpredictability carries a power and destruction of its own. The longer an abusive relationship continues, the more difficult it becomes to end it.

For help and support: National Domestic Violence Hotline, (800) 799-SAFE (7233), or Kentucky Coalition against Domestic Violence, (502) 209-5382.

* Source: "Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft, 2002.

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