Who are the abusers? 01.08.06
Abusers come from all walks of life. They can come from any ethnic group, religion, class or neighbourhood. They may be older or younger. However, whilst they may also be any gender, the majority of perpetrators are men.
Since abusers typically display different kinds of behaviours in public than they do in their private relationships, most people are not usually aware of domestic violence when it is happening in their community. Sometimes, it is difficult to believe that a person who behaves so respectably in public can behave so appallingly with their family. This can sometimes make it even more difficult for women who are trying to reach out for support, as they may feel that they will not be believed when they speak out about the violence.
Who is responsible for the violence?
The abuser is responsible, and there is no excuse for domestic violence. The abuser has a choice to use violence, or instead they can choose to behave non-violently, fostering a relationship built on trust, honesty, fairness and respect. The victim is never responsible for the abuser's behaviour.
'Blaming the victim' is something that abusers often do to make excuses for their behaviour. This is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Sometimes abusers convince their victims that they are to blame for the abuser's behaviour. Blaming his behaviour on someone or something else - the relationship, his childhood, ill health, alcohol or drug addiction - is an abuser's way of avoiding responsibility for his behaviour.
Children, similar to adult victims, will often feel responsible for the violence and it is important to let them know that the violence is not their fault.
Does couple counselling help?
Couple counselling or mediation may sometimes be seen as a way of addressing the issue. However, there are some significant problems with this type of approach. Firstly, there is a risk to the woman’s safety: asking her to discuss the violence with the perpetrator present may lead to later reprisal. Secondly, the approach itself assumes that the woman is in some way responsible or capable of altering the perpetrator’s behaviour. Thirdly, it is unlikely to be successful, since the victim will feel unable to disclose her real feelings. Women’s Aid therefore does not support the use of couple counselling or mediation in situations where domestic violence has occurred.
Instead, we suggest that abusers who want to try to change their behaviour attend a perpetrator programme that meets Respect service standards.
What about services for the abuser?
Visit the Respect website for information about perpetrator programmes. (Respect is a registered charity promoting best practice for domestic violence perpetrator programmes and associated support services in the UK).
Key statistics: who is the abuser?
From April 2000 to June 2001 there were 30,314 offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in London alone (Metropolitan Police Service). A study carried out by the Home Office found that more than a third (41%) of cases brought to the courts under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the suspect had previously had an intimate relationship with the complainant. 33% of the suspects were ex-partners, 4% were relatives, 1% a current partner and 4% were friends. In situations where the suspect previously or currently had an intimate relationship with the victim, 94% of the suspects were men (Home Office Research Study 203, 2000).
The British Crime Survey conducted in 2000 found that women are most likely to be sexually attacked by men who are known to them. 45% of rapes reported to the survey were perpetrated by current partners. (Home Office Research Study 237, 2002).
One Scottish survey found that a majority of men who said that they were victims of domestic violence, were also perpetrators of violence (13 of 22), and on being re-interviewed, a further 13 later said they had actually never experienced any form of domestic abuse. (Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2002).