There is no one hard and fast profile of a domestic abuser. They come from all walks of life and all races, socioeconomic backgrounds and all professions. Investigators or anyone that assumes you can tell an abuser from just looking at them or from engaging in simple conversations are misinformed and putting themselves at risk.
Looking at the statistics, more men than woman are abusers. Typically, they come across as charming and are often very smart and manipulative, which contributes to their ability to abuse their partners undetected for so long. When people, even close friends or family of the victim, learn of the domestic violence many respond with shock thinking how could it be so because outside appearances portray a loving couple, sometimes with the abuser being overly attentive and almost “putting on a show” for others. There is often a marked difference between the actions an abuser shows in public in direct contract to how they are at home.
While there is no one profile to rely on, domestic abusers tend to have some common characteristics.
Intense jealousy – This is not just with members of the opposite sex but of everyone including their own children. An abuser will constantly question the victim’s whereabouts and what they were doing and why. They are jealous of the time spent away and will often make the victim feel guilty or like they have done something wrong. This can get to the point where the victim no longer will go out and be with other people because of the ongoing grief it brings at home.
Isolation – The jealousy and other actions of the abuser work to isolate the victim from family and friends. The abuser will also move the victim away from familiar surroundings and people they know and make the victim stop working so they are totally dependent on the abuser.
Holds very rigid gender roles – This is more true of male abusers. Men who abuse tend to hold very rigid gender roles and look at women as property and as “less than” in the relationship and in society as a whole. They hold fast to the notion that men are the head of households and make all of the decisions with women there only to cater to a man’s needs.
Controlling behavior – Most abusers have a high need for control in their home and in their life. For some the control they exert at home is because they feel a lack of control in other settings, and for others, the controlling behavior can be seen in every aspect of their daily lives. The controlling behavior takes all forms from when a victim can leave the house, to where they can go, people they can associate with and even who often they can speak with or when they can see family and friends.
Types of Abuse
To fully understand the mindset of a domestic abuser, the types of abuse must be understood as well. This does not typically happen at all once at the start of a relationship. Looking back victims and even those close to the victim can often point to telltale warning signs of escalation along the way but once the abuse is happening full-force, the victim is usually either too far into the relationship or too dependent to make major changes. The most common types of domestic abuse include:
Emotional – This can present as name calling, threatening the victim or threatening to harm loved one so the victim, playing mind games and even breaking things the victim cares about or killing the victim’s pets. If there are weapons in the home, abusers have been known to hold a victim at gunpoint and threaten to kill the victim and even themselves.
Financial – Most domestic abusers keep a tight rein on the finances sometimes not allowing the victim to have their own money, even if they are working and earning an income. The goal is total dependence on the abuser. A victim with the financial resources is more likely to have the means to leave.
Physical – Domestic abuse does not have to be physical to be considered abuse but psychical assault is usually the highest escalation in domestic abuse. Reports have shown abusers to punch, kick, slap, grab and chock the victim. It is not uncommon for the abuser to focus on areas of the victim’s body where bruises cannot be seen with clothing on.
Sexual – Sexual violence against domestic violence victims is not uncommon. Forcing sex while the victim is asleep, forcing the victim into sexual activity the victim does not want or have an interest is also common. Justification of the abusers action based on the bible has also been noted.
Technological – As the use and dependence on technology increases to do the methods an abuser has to track and control the victim. Use of GPS on vehicles, spyware on computers and even hacking into email and social media accounts are also common.
Cycle of Violence
The abuse that takes place is often cyclical. There are moments of both escalation and de-escalation. Early in a relationship, an abuser can sometimes go months between incidences but over time the frequency of abuse incidences rises and the cooling off period decrease. Domestic abuse more often follows the pattern of: tension building, which is marked by stress and tension building from the abuser and victims which usually an argument and explosion of violence. After the assault, an abuse often tries to make it up to the victim doing everything to ensure the victim does not leave. Buying gifts, taking trips together and even promises of it never happening again and that they will seek help are common. An investigator should assess the pattern of abuse when working on these cases to better understand the escalation and de-escalation triggers and timeframes.
Domestic Violence and Victim Service Resources
National Center for Victims of Crime http://www.victimsofcrime.org/
National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards http://www.nacvcb.org/
Women’s Law http://www.womenslaw.org/
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
National Alliance on Mental Illness - 1-800-950-6264
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273- 8255