Abuse 101 – The Mentality and Tactics of Abuse
The following is taken in part from our new book, A Cry for Justice [*affiliate link]. Please read carefully and you will learn that domestic violence and abuse are far, far more than “wife battering,” or some difficult guy who gets drunk on Saturday nights. This evil is much more devilishly sophisticated than that:
In all of its forms, what are the fundamental elements present? Let’s define it. Please understand that abusers may be men or women, but for reasons of simplicity and because more commonly it is the man who is the abuser, we will use “he/him” to refer to the abuser. I have, in fact, known numerous abusers who were women. But the fact remains, the majority are men.
Abuse is fundamentally a mentality of entitlement and superiority which uses many different tactics to obtain and enforce the power and control the abuser deems himself entitled to. The abuser judges himself to be absolutely justified in using whatever tactics are necessary to ensure this power and control over his victim.
Abuse is effected in many ways: both physical (including sexual) and non-physical (verbal). It can be active (physically or verbally) or passive (not speaking, not acting). Abuse, therefore, is not limited to physical assault. Indeed, the non-physical forms of abuse often are far more damaging, deceptive, and cruel.
Mark these defining terms down very, very carefully. An abuser is a person whose mentality, mindset, and even worldview is dominated by –
- Entitlement (to that control)
- Justification (in enforcing that control)
This means that, as I learned, it is a serious mistake to assume an abuser thinks like everyone else does. Abuse is rooted in a unique mentality. Any method of dealing with the abuser and helping his victim is destined to failure unless we recognize this fundamental fact. Abusers are not like you and me. They do not look at other people as we do, nor do they view themselves in ways that we would call “normal.”
Another characteristic of the abuser is his impaired conscience. It may even be non-existent (which would classify him as a sociopath). Abuse seems to increase as the functionality of the conscience decreases. Without a conscience, a person cannot engage in meaningful, healthy interpersonal relationships. He cannot empathize with others (feel what they feel, understand what they think).
The abuser is the center of his universe. He views his victims as objects owned by him to serve him. A person with no empathy nor conscience obviously will objectify others – make them into a kind of non-human – and this makes it easier for him to use and abuse them. Because his worldview is one of entitlement and superiority, he minimizes, excuses, and blames others for the wicked things he says and does to his victim. After all, in his evaluation of the thing, he is absolutely justified in doing “what a man has to do” to keep his property in line.
Abusers have a degraded view of women. This is often revealed in the vile, demeaning language they use toward their victim and also in other activities such as the use of pornography. They view women as the enemy, out to get them, always conspiring and conniving to put a man down.
Raging is another common tactic of the abuser. Often it comes in the form of a “surprise attack” for no apparent reason. He can be getting something out of the refrigerator, for example, and suddenly start shouting and cursing and throwing things. Raging can go on for quite some time while the victim cowers, fearing for her safety. I actually remember having an elementary teacher who raged. I was in the 4th grade and Mrs. Hale would suddenly, maybe once each month or so, launch into a shouting tirade against the entire class of 9 year olds. It went on for quite some time. Afterwards, as with most abuser blowups, there would be a kind of “make-up” phase in which she was extra nice to us. Abusers who rage, however, are probably not really out of control, as we might think. If they smash things for example, they often do so selectively – saving their own property.
Remember, power and control is what it is all about. Abusers are not just guys with short tempers who happen to be relational “jerks.” They are far more calculated and intentional than that. They know what they are doing, and they do it for a definite purpose. One way we know this is true is from the mask they wear. They wear their nice-guy mask when it is beneficial for them to do so, and reveal who they really are in more secretive settings where there are no outside witnesses. That reeks of intentionality.
That is only a very brief introduction to the abuser mindset and arsenal of tactics. For a much fuller treatment, please read Lundy Bancroft’s books which you will find on our Recommended Reading page. Readers are invited to leave comments about additional abuser tactics and thinking in response to this article.
* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link