Characteristics of Abusers

Characteristics of Abusers

 Perpetrators of domestic and family violence vary in age and from any ethnicity, religion, socio-economic, and demographic backgrounds. They can live in any geographic region or occupy any profession. While abusers can be of any gender, a majority of them are males (Chung & Bagshaw, 2000). To respond to domestic and family violence properly, it is essential to understand the tactics that perpetrators use to hurt and coerce their victims and those they use to control their victims. Domestic violence perpetrators are in control of such behaviors and are ultimately the ones who are able to change the situation. Abusers are good at hiding the violence and present themselves publicly as loving, kind, likable and charming, but in private they are violent, cruel manipulative and undermining.

Intent and Choice

Domestic violence perpetrators make decisions and are responsible for the use of violence. This can be shown by the fact that they almost never use violence indiscriminately (Fact Sheet 3, 2013). Most abusers are not violent in their workplace, communities or social networks; they are selective about when, where and how they use violence. For example:

  • An abuser threatens to use future violence if the victim does not do what he wants.
  • An abuser may immediately change his behavior from being violent to being pleasant when he was in the middle of an abusive episode, and the phone rings or someone comes into the house.
  • An abuser chooses where and when he will be abusive, for instance, they may wait to humiliate their victim in front of family or friends or may wait and attack their victim privately at home.
  • An abuser makes careful decisions about the amount, type and where to carry out abuse, for instance causing injury to their victims in areas that are covered by clothes.

Understanding that abusers use planned, and deliberate force is vital when trying to engage and hold them accountable.

Perpetrators as Fathers

Fathers who perpetrate domestic violence are associated with particular characteristics. It is likely that they will use physical discipline and controlling behaviors to display anger to their children. They have a poor developmental understanding of appropriate behaviors children have at different stages and ages, and unrealistic expectations. The sense of entitlement underpins most of these parenting techniques. To these men, the role of a father is central to their identity and is a significant motivator for change. It is however important not to idealize fatherhood to men who are violence perpetrators. In most cases, these men have entitlement thinking in their attitudes, and most often than not, they see their child as their possession or investment, or as a person who should love them unconditionally (Fact Sheet 3, 2013).

It is not common for abusers who use violence to realize that violence towards their partner is also an abuse to their child. As a result, they are unable to understand or see its impact on the child. An abuser might be able to express love to his child; it should, however, be noted that this should not be mistaken for empathy for their child’s experiences and needs. The men who perpetrate violence prioritize their needs when relating to their partners; they relate to their children the same way (Fact Sheet 3, 2013). When children fail to comply with their expectations they can feel justified to use violence against them or to neglect basic care.

Even after separation disregard for the needs of a child continues. The abusers often privilege their right to contact with the child over the trauma that this might cause the child. To this extent, like the many others, abusers put their wants and needs above that of the child.

Role of Substance Abuser to Domestic Violence

In sample researches, it was found that marital violence was eight times more likely to occur when the abuser had used alcohol than on days without alcohol (Fals-Stewart et al., 2003). Other drugs also have a link to partner violence. A study which observed 151 court-referred batters, found out that 53 percent had used marijuana and 24 percent had used cocaine in the past year.

Abuse of alcohol was shown to be the main cause of the presence and severity of domestic violence. Other multiple ills were associated with alcoholism such as sexual dysfunction, inadequate parenting, aggression, and general domestic discord. Men who have alcohol problems tend to have a higher rate of violence towards their wives. They inflict more injurious and frequent assaults, other than the men who do not use alcohol.

Families where there is substance abuse and where the woman is abused often share characteristics: frequent states of crisis, abuser forgetting details of the episode, intergenerational transmission, retarded emotional development, non-abusive partner isolation, and loss of control used as a mechanism for coping, and low self-esteem among the members of the family (Teacher Law, 2013). Alcoholic women receive a greater level of verbal and physical abuse than women who do not drink alcohol. Women who abuse drugs or use alcohol increase their chances of being battered. It also increases the chances of their male pattern daring when he batters her. As a result, the chances of physical injury increases.



Fals-Stewart, W., Kashdan, T. B., O’Farrell, T. J., & Birchler, G. R. (2003). Behavioral couples therapy for drug-abusing patients: effects on partner violence. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 22(2), 87-96.

Bagshaw, D., & Chung, D. (2000). Women, men and domestic violence. Canberra: Partnerships against Domestic Violence.

Department for Child Protection, Government of Western Australia (2013). Perpetrator accountability in Child Protection Practice – A resource for child protection workers about engaging and responding to men who perpetrate family and domestic violence: Fact Sheet 3 Perpetrator’s Characteristics. Retrieved from

Teacher, Law. (November 2013). Domestic violence and substance abuse. Retrieved from

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3 responses to “Characteristics of Abusers”

  1. Hi, very nice website, cheers!

    1. Professor Ortiz Avatar
      Professor Ortiz

      thanks Katie

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