Preventing Wife Abuse – Warning Signs
I. Warning Signs
Many women are interested in ways that they can predict whether they are about to become involved with someone who will be physically abusive. Below is a list of behaviour s that are seen in people who batter their girlfriends, lovers, or wives; the last four signs are almost always seen only if the person is a physical batterer — if the person has several of the other behaviour s (say three or more), the batterer is battering emotionally and there is a strong potential for physical violence. The more signs the person has, the more likely the person is an emotional or physical batterer. In some cases, a batterer may have only a couple of behaviour s that the woman can recognize, but they are very exaggerated (e.g., extreme jealousy over ridiculous things). Initially, the batterer will try to explain the emotionally abusive behaviour (described below) as signs of love and concern, and a woman may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviour s become more severe and serve to dominate the woman.
1. Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will assert that his jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness. The abuser will question the woman about who she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of the time she spends with her family, friends, or children. As the jealousy progresses, the abuser may call the woman frequently at home/work during the day or drop by unexpectedly. The abuser may refuse to let the woman work for fear she’ll meet someone else, or even do strange behaviour s such as checking the woman’s car mileage or asking friends to watch her.
2. Controlling behaviour: At first, the batterer will say that this behaviour is necessary because the batterer is concerned for the woman’s safety, her need to use her time well, or her need to make good decisions. The batterer will be angry if the woman is “late” coming back from the store or an appointment; the batterer will question her closely about where she went, who she talked to, etc. As this behaviour progresses, the batterer may not let the woman make personal decisions about the house, her clothing, going to church, etc. The batterer may keep all the money or even make the woman ask permission to leave the house, leave the room, use the phone, etc.
3. Quick involvement: Many battered women dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser comes on like a whirlwind claiming “love at first sight,” and will tell the woman flattering things such as, “You’re the only person I could ever talk to,” or, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” The abuser needs someone desperately and will pressure the woman to commit to the abuser.
4. Unrealistic expectations: The abuser is very dependent on the woman for all his needs; the abuser expects the woman to be the perfect lover, mother, wife, and/or friend. The abuser will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all you need/you’re all I need.” The woman is supposed to take care of everything for the abuser emotionally and in the home.
5. Isolation: The abuser tries to cut off the woman from all resources. If the woman has other men friends (and she’s heterosexual) she’s a “whore”; if she has other female friends (and she’s heterosexual) she’s a lesbian; if the woman is close to family, she is “tied to the apron strings.” The abuser accuses people who are the woman’s support of “causing trouble.” The abuser may want to live in the country without a phone, not let the woman use the car, or try to keep the woman from working or going to school.
6. Blame: The abuser blames others for his problems. If the abuser is chronically unemployed, he complains of “others doing me wrong,” or of people who are “out to get me.” The abuser may make mistakes and then blame the woman for upsetting him and keeping him from concentrating on his job. The abuser will tell the woman she is at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.
7. Blaming others for his feelings: The abuser will blame others for his feelings. He will tell the woman, “You make me mad,” “You’re hurting me by not doing what I ask,” “I can’t help being angry,” etc. The abuser makes the decision about what he thinks and feels, but he will use feelings to manipulate the woman. Harder to catch are the abuser’s claims that “you make me happy” or “you control how I feel.”
8. Hypersensitivity: The abuser is easily insulted or claims feelings are “hurt” when the abuser is really feeling mad, or the abuser takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. The abuser will rant and rave about the injustice of things that have happened — things that are really just part of living, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being asked to help with chores, etc.
9. Cruelty to animals or children: This characteristic is shown in an abuser who punishes animals brutally or who is insensitive to their pain and suffering; the abuser may expect children to capable of doing things far beyond their ability and punish them when they do not “behave” (e.g., whipping a two-year-old for wetting their diaper), or the abuser may tease children or younger brothers or sisters until they cry. The abuser may also not want children to eat at the table or may expect them to keep in their room all evening when the abuser is home. **60% of men who beat their partners also beat their children
10. “Playful” use of force during sex: This characteristic is expressed in an abuser who may like to throw the woman and hold her down during sex, or he may want to act out fantasies where the woman is helpless. The abuser may let the woman know that the idea of rape excites him. He may show little concern about whether the woman wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate the woman in to compliance. The abuser may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping, or demand sex when she
is ill or tired. THIS BEHAVIOUR IS RAPE.
11. Mental abuse: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this characteristic is demonstrated by the abuser by degrading the woman, cursing her, running down any of her compliments, etc. The abuser will tell the woman she’s stupid and unable to function without him. Mental abuse may also involve waking the woman up to verbally abuse her or not letting her go to sleep.
12. Rigid sex roles: The abuser expects the woman to serve all his needs. He does this by demanding the woman stay home, obey him in all things — even things that are illegal/criminal in nature. The abuser may see the woman (and possibly all women) as inferior to him (or all men). The abuser may also see the woman (or all women) as more stupid than men and unable to be “whole” without a relationship.
13. “Jeckyll and Hyde”: Many women are confused by their abuser’s sudden changes in mood — women will describe that one minute the abuser is nice and the next minute he explodes, or one minute is happy and then the next sad. This does not indicate some special “mental problem” or that he is “crazy.” Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of abusers who beat their partners, and these behaviour s are related to other characteristics, such as hypersensitivity.
14. Past bettering: The abuser may say he has hit others in the past, but that those individuals made him do it. The woman may hear from the abuser’s relatives or ex-spouses/ex-lovers that he is physically abusive. A batterer will beat any woman he is with; situational circumstances do not make an abusive personality.
15. Threats of violence: This would indicate any threat of physical force meant to control the woman: “I’ll slap your mouth off,” “I’ll kill you,” “I’ll break your neck.” Most people do not threaten their partners, but a batterer will try to excuse this behaviour by saying, “Everybody talks like that.”
16. Breaking or striking objects: This behaviour is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize the woman into submission. The abuser may beat on tables with his fists, strike walls, or throw objects around or near the woman. Again, this is unusual behaviour; only very immature people beat on objects in the presence of others in order to threaten them.
17. Any force during an argument: This may involve a batterer holding the woman down, physically restraining her from leaving the room, or any pushing or shoving. The abuser may hold the woman against the wall and say, “You’re going to listen to me.”
II. Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality
It is sometimes possible to predict the likelihood of the person you are currently or are about to become involved with being abusive. Below are a list of behaviours and traits which are common in abusive personalities. These are commonly known as Warning Signs.
While not all abusive people show the same signs, or display the tendencies to the same extent, if several behavioural traits are present, there is a strong tendency toward abusiveness. Generally, the more signs are present, the greater the likelihood of violence. In some cases, an abuser may have only a couple of behavioural traits that can be recognized, but they are very exaggerated (e.g. extreme jealousy over ridiculous things).
Often the abuser will initially try to explain his/her behaviour as signs of his/her love and concern, and the victim may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviours become more severe and serve to dominate, control and manipulate the victim.
1. Jealousy - At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say the jealousy is a sign of love. He/she may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, may accuse you of flirting, or be jealous of time you spend with family, friends, children or hobbies which do not include him/her. As the jealousy progresses, he/she may call you frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may be unhappy about or refuse to let you work for fear you’ll meet someone else, check the car mileage or ask friends to keep an eye on you. Jealousy is not proof of love; it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.
2. Controlling Behaviour - Controlling behaviour is often disguised or excused as concern. Concern for your safety, your emotional or mental health, the need to use your time well, or to make sensible decisions. Your abuser may be angry or upset if you are ‘late’ coming back from work, shopping, visiting friends, etc., even if you told him/her you would be later back than usual. Your abuser may question you closely about where you were, whom you spoke to, the content of every conversation you held, or why you did something he/she was not involved in. As this behaviour gets worse, you may not be allowed to make personal decisions about the house, clothing, going to church or how you spend your time or money or even make you ask for permission to leave the house or room. Alternately, he/she may theoretically allow you your own decisions, but penalise you for making the wrong ones. Concern for our loved ones to a certain extent is normal – trying to control their every move is not.
3. Quick Involvement - Many victims of abuse dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser will often claim ‘love at first sight’, that you are ‘made for each other’, or that you are the only person whom he could ever talk to so openly, feel so at home with, could understand him so well. He/she may tell you that they have never loved anyone so much or felt so loved by anyone so much before, when you have really only known each other for a short amount of time. He/she needs someone desperately, and will pressure you to commit to him/her or make love before you feel the relationship has reached ‘that stage’. He/she may also make you feel guilty for not committing yourself to him/her.
4. Unrealistic Expectations - The abuser may expect you to be the perfect husband, wife, mother, father, lover, and friend. He/she is very dependent on you for all his/her needs, and may tell you he/she can fulfil all your needs as lover, friend, and companion. Statements such as: ‘lf you love me, I’m all you need.’, ‘you are all I need.’ are common. Your abuser may expect you to provide everything for him/her emotionally, practically, financially or spiritually, and then blame you for not being perfect or living up to expectation.
5. Isolation - The abuser may try to curtail your social interaction. He/she may prevent you from spending time with your friends or family and demand that you only go places ‘together’. He/she may accuse you of being ‘tied to your mother’s apron strings’, not be committed to the relationship, or view people who are your personal friends as ‘causing trouble’ or ‘trying to put a wedge’ between you. He/she may want to live in the country without a phone, not let you use the car, stop you from working or gaining further education or qualifications.
6. Blame-shifting for Problems - Very rarely will an abusive personality accept responsibility for any negative situation or problem. If they are unemployed, can’t hold down a job, were thrown out of college or University or fall out with their family, it is always someone else’s fault, be it the boss, the government, or their mother. They may feel that someone is always doing them wrong, or out to get him. He/she may make a mistakes and then blame you for upsetting him/her or preventing him/her from doing as they wished to.
7. Blame-shifting for Feelings - The abuser will deny feelings stem from within him/her but see them as reactions to your behaviour or attitude toward him/her. He/she may tell you that ‘you make me mad’, ‘you’re hurting me by not doing what I ask’, or that he/she cannot help feeling mad, upset, etc. Feelings may be used to manipulate you, i.e. ‘I would not be angry if you didn’t …’ Positive emotions will often also be seen as originating outside the abuser, but are more difficult to detect. Statements such as ‘You make me happy’ or ‘You make me feel good about myself’ are also signs that the abuser feels you are responsible for his sense of well-being. Either way, you become in his/her mind the cause of good and bad feelings and are therefore responsible for his/her emotional well-being and happiness. Consequently, you are also to blame for any negative feelings such as anger, upset or depression.
8. Hypersensitivity - Most abusers have very low self-esteem and are therefore easily insulted or upset. They may claim their feelings are ‘hurt’ when they are really angry, or take unrelated comments as personal attacks. They may perceive normal set-backs (having to work additional hours, being asked to help out, receiving a parking fine, etc.) as grave personal injustices. They may view your preference for something which differs from their own as a criticism of their taste and therefore themselves (e.g. blue wallpaper rather than pink, etc.).
9. Cruelty to Animals - The abuser may punishes animals brutally, be insensitive to their pain or suffering, or neglect to care for the animals to the point of cruelty, e.g. not feeding them all day, leaving them in areas he/she knows will cause them suffering or distress. There is a strong correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence which is still being researched.
10. Cruelty to Children - The abusers unrealistic expectations of their partner are often mirrored in their attitude toward children. He/she will think of children as ‘small adults’ and blame the children for not being responsible, having common sense or understanding. He/she may expect children to be capable far beyond their ability (e.g. is angry with a two-year old for wetting their pants or being sick on the carpet, waking at night or being upset by nightmares) and will often meet out punishments for ‘naughtiness’ the child could not be aware of. Abusers may tease children until they cry, or punish children way beyond what could be deemed appropriate. He/she may not want children to eat at the table, expect them to stay quiet, or keep to their room all evening while he/she is at home. Since abusers want all your attention themselves, they resent your spending time with the children or any normal demands and needs the children may have. As above (cruelty to animals), there is a very strong link between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.
11. ‘Playful’ use of Force in Sex - He/she may pressurise you to agree to forceful or violent acts during sex, or want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. A male abuser may let you know that the idea of “rape” excites him. He/she may show little concern about whether you want to have intercourse and uses sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. Starting sex while you are sleeping, demanding sex when you are ill or tired, or refusing any form of intimacy unless you are willing to go ‘all the way’ can all be signs that he/she could be sexually abusive or sexually violent.
12. Rigid Gender Roles - Abusers usually believe in stereotypical gender roles. A man may expect a woman to serve him; stay at home, obey him in all things – even things that are criminal in nature. A male abuser will often see women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. Female abusers may expect the man to provide for them entirely, shift the responsibility for her well-being onto him or heckle him as being ‘not a real man’ if he shows any weakness or emotion.
13. Verbal Abuse - In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, either in public or in private, this can include degrading remarks or running down any accomplishments. Often the abuser will tell you that you are ‘stupid’, could not manage without him/her. He/she may keep you up all night to ‘sort this out once and for all’ or even wake you at night to continue to verbally abuse you. The abuser may even say kindly things to your face, but speak badly about you to friends and family.
14. Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde - Very rarely do abusers conform to the stereotypical image of a constantly harsh, nasty or violent person, either in public or in private. More frequently the abuser portrays a perfectly normal and pleasant picture to the outside world (often they have responsible jobs or are respected and important members of the local community or Church) and reserves the abuse for you in the privacy of your own home. Nor are abusers always overtly abusive or cruel, but can display apparent kindness and consideration. This Jeckyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser serves to further confuse the victim, while protecting themselves from any form of suspicion from outsiders. Many victims describe “sudden” changes in mood – one minute nice and the next explosive or hysterical, or one minute happy and the next minute sad. This does not indicate some special “mental problem” but are typical of abusive personalities, and related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.
15. Drink or Substance Abuse - While neither drinking or the use of drugs are signs of an abusive personality, heavy drinking or drug abuse may be a warning sign and do increase the risks of abuse, especially violence, taking place. Often an abusive person will blame the drink for his/her abuse. However, a person who, knowing there is a risk he/she could be violent when drinking or on drugs, chooses to get drunk or high, is in effect choosing to abuse. The link between substance abuse and domestic abuse is still being researched, and it is
16. History of Battering or Sexual Violence - Very rarely is abuse or violence a one-off event: a batterer will beat any woman he is with; a sexually abusive person will be abusive toward all his intimate partners. Situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality. Sometimes friends or family may try to warn you about the abuser. Sometimes the abuser may tell you himself/herself that he/she has hit or sexually assaulted someone in the past. However, they may further go on to explain that “she made me do it by …” or in some other way not take responsibility and shift the blame on to the victim. They may tell you that it won’t happen with you because “you love them enough to prevent it” or “you won’t be stupid enough to wind me up that much”. Once again, this is denying their own responsibility for the abuse, and shifting the responsibility for the relationship to remain abuse-free on to you. Past violence is one of the strongest pointers that abuse will occur. If at all possible, try to speak to their previous girlfriends.
17. Negative Attitude toward Women - Some men may tell you that you are different to all the women they have known before, who display a lack of respect of women generally or who talk negatively and disrespectfully of their previous wives or girlfriends. They may tell you that you are special, not like the others and that they consider themselves to be the luckiest man alive to have found the last decent woman. It is not likely to be long before they remember that you are a woman and don’t deserve their respect.
18. Threatening Violence - This would obviously include any threat of physical force such as “If you speak to him/her again, I’ll kill you”, or “If any wife of mine acted like John’s did, I’d give her a right seeing to”. Threats are designed to manipulate and control you, to keep you in your place and prevent you making your own decisions. Most people do not threaten their mates, but an abuser will excuse this behaviour by saying “everybody talks like that.”, maintaining he/she is only saying this because the relationship or you are so important to him/her, tell you you’re “over-sensitive” for being upset by such threats, or obviously want to hurt him/her. Threats can also be less overt, such as “If you leave me, I will kill myself”, or “You are so wonderful, I will never let you go/couldn’t live without you”.
19. Breaking or Striking Objects - The abusive person may break your treasured object, beat his/her fists on the table or chair or throw something at or past you. Breaking your things is often used as a punishment for some imagined misdeed on your part. Sometimes it will be justified by saying that now that you are with him/her, you don’t need these items any more. Breaking your possessions also has the effect of de-personalising you, denying you your individuality or literally trying to break links to your past. Beating items of furniture or throwing objects will often be justified by saying you wound him/her up so much they lost control, once again shifting the blame for this behaviour on to you, but is actually used to terrorise you into submission. Only very immature or abusive people beat on objects in the presence of other people in order to threaten or intimidate them.
20. Any Force during an Argument - An abuser may physically restrain you from leaving the room, lash out at you with his/her hand or another object, pin you against a wall or shout ‘right in your face’. Basically any form of force used during an argument can be a sign that actual violence is a strong possibility.
III. Preventing Wife Abuse – For Husbands
“How to Prevent Wife Abuse in Marriage –
15 Personal Strategies a Husband Can Adopt” By Francis Edo Olotu
It is very good to determine well before courtship and marriage how you want your marriage to be. Your early preparation has a way of making you know the qualities you want in your spouse. The closer a spouse is to your ideal, the less the adjustment you would make after marriage and the lesser the chances of friction in the relationship. If a man wants his home to be the cradle of comfort which God designed it to be rather than a hot bed of violence which it has become in many marriages, there are certain attitudes he must adopt and others he must drop to make his relationship with his wife wonderful. The following are the strategies:
1. Be faithful to your marital vow in which you promised to love, honor cherish and protect your wife till death brings about a separation. Do things that reinforce your commitment to your marital vows such as seeking the good of your wife always.
2. Take your wife the way she is. Adults do not change easily; the more you work on changing your wife, the more frustrated you might become and the closer to abuse you would get by the day. It has been said that before marriage, keep your eyes wide open to see if your fiancée is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with; after the nuptial knots are tied, keep your eyes half closed so that you will not see things that will provoke aggression in you.
3. Have the attitude that you are appointed to be a blessing to your wife. In this way you will be more preoccupied with how you will be a blessing to her every day. Physical abuse is so destructive that it would not feature in your home when your concern is to make your wife happy.
4. Dispel any utilitarian concept of marriage in you. Do not enter marriage with the hope that your wife will enable you achieve those things that have eluded you so far in life; this will breed frustration as she might not have that ability to do your wish.
5. Keep working on anger management or control in your life. If you have problems with managing anger, seek professional help or better still spiritual help to overcome it.
6. Improve on your communication skills. Develop a pattern of communication that is devoid of violence both in speech and in action. Learn to appreciate your wife for who she is and for the added value she has brought in to your life.
7. Think of the evil consequences of wife physical abuse such as causing accidental death to your spouse for which you might spend the rest of your life in jail. The effects of domestic violence on your children such as loss of respect for your wife, likelihood of your sons walking in your footsteps and your daughters developing abhorrence for marriage. These are enough reasons to deter a man from physically abusing his wife.
8. Acquiring conflict resolution and problem solving skills. These will teach you how to disagree on issues without turning violent; you will also learn how to respect and accept the views of your wife without loss of face. If your wife is meant to complement you, it follows that there are times you may not share the same views on issues.
9. Have shared interests. Develop some common interest with your wife such as writing books or a business venture. The fact that you are doing things together has a way of bringing you closer and making you more dependent on one another.
10. Add value or invest in your wife. If your wife has an ambition of furthering her education after marriage or upgrading her skills in any trade, give her all the necessary support. She would not only be indebted to you, but will honor you for the input in her life.
11. Change your environment if need be. If you are unhappy at your place of work, you may need to change job because your unhappiness could translate in to violence at home. If there are extended family members who stoke the embers of aggression in you, cut off the links with them and stick to your wife.
12. Allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to come in to your life and bring about a change in you. The Gospel will bring a purpose and clarity of vision to your life that will enable you handle your personal issues without resorting to violence.
13. Learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, listening to cool music and meditation on the word of God when you are under stress.
14. Avoid the company of men who physically abuse their wives. Bad company corrupts good morals; rather seek the company of happily married men from whom you would learn good values in spousal relationship.
15. Learn to use humor and laugh at yourself at times. When you take life too seriously, it could laugh at you. Learn to live with those things you cannot change while doing your best to handle issues within your ability.