Understanding Domestic Violence

Why do People Abuse?

Domestic violence is a choice the abuser makes.

It’s hard for most people to accept that someone can be violent, manipulative, and harmful to their partner. We want to believe the best in people, so seeing someone choose to hurt their partner doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many victims.

Nobody is destined to abuse. But abuse is a learned behavior, so a person can be influenced by a number of factors.

  • Seeing or experiencing violence when young
  • What relationships they saw modeled while growing up
  • Pop culture and media
  • Culture, religion, and gender roles
  • Family and friends

Many people are exposed to these things and do not abuse, though. A violent youth or constant exposure to violence in media does not predict abuse.

Nobody is destined to abuse.

Abuse Excuses

An abuser will blame many things to try to make excuses and justify their actions, but the abuse is their choice to commit.

Anger Management

Abusers will say: “I have anger management issues.”

The abuse is still their choice: When a victim says their partner has anger problems, we ask, “Does your partner show that anger toward everyone, or only take it out on you?” If the abuser controls their anger around everyone else, they can control it around you too.

The abuse is still their choice.


Abusers will say: “I lost my job, and I just snapped.”

The abuse is still their choice: The abuser loses their job, but they don’t hit their boss. They make it all the way home without hurting anyone. They control their actions, until they’re home. It shows that violence behind closed doors was not “snapping” from stress.

The abuse is still their choice.

Relationship Modeling

Abusers will say: “This is what my dad did to my mom. It’s the only type of relationship I know.”

The abuse is still their choice: Exposure to violence during youth and lack of healthy relationship models do increase a likelihood of being in an abusive relationship, but it doesn’t predict it. An abuser will have other positive models in their lives they can use. And they can listen to their partner’s concerns, to grow together. Instead, an abuser refuses to change and blames their past to excuse their actions.

The abuse is still their choice.

Substance Use

Abusers will say: “You can’t blame me for what I do when I’m drunk/high.”

The abuse is still their choice: Many people get drunk/high, and don’t hurt their partner. Substance use may lower someone’s inhibition, but if that person doesn’t already have the desire to harm their partner, alcohol or drugs will not create that desire.

The abuse is still their choice.

Public Image

Abusers will say: “You know me… you really think I’m capable of what she’s accusing me of?”

The abuse is still their choice: Abusive partners will actively manipulate their public image. They could be charming, respected, and calm in public, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same person at home. This is a tactic, because they will convince their partner that nobody will believe them if they come forward. The abuser may make themselves beloved in public, so they can continue to torment in private.

The abuse is still their choice.

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