Worried About Hurting Others
Recognising that your behaviour is abusive is the first step to changing it. It’s very difficult to admit that you abuse people you love, but it is possible to change how you relate to others, if you genuinely want to.
Recognising abusive behaviour
- Criticise your partner?
- Blame them when things go wrong?
- Ever push or hit your partner ?
- Feel they are scared of you?
- constantly worry that your partner may be seeing someone else? Do you accuse them and check up on them?
- Tightly control money or spend money the family needs on things for yourself?
- Pressurise your partner into having sex or do things they don’t enjoy?
- Fantasise about punishing or hurting your partner?
- Need to get your way at all times?
- Worry about your temper and wish you could stop?
Domestic abuse ruins lives. It’s a pattern of controlling, bullying behaviour, which usually gets worse over time. It will affect your partner’s health, happiness and confidence and can have a terrible impact on children living with you. But, it also has a brutalising effect on you. You won’t ever really be happy if you’re unable to maintain loving, trusting relationships. If you abuse your partner, they will become increasingly wary and even scared of you and your relationship will obviously suffer as a result. You may find that the jealous, controlling behaviour you use to try and keep hold of your partner, is the very behaviour that drives them away. It’s hard for your partner to keep loving you, if you bully or hurt them. They are likely to tread very carefully round you and feel unable to share their real feelings or concerns, for fear of your reaction. They may pacify you, or keep things from you, to avoid conflict. After an abusive episode, you may choose to forget about it and move on, but the effects on your partner will last much longer.
Minimising the abuse
You may feel your partner is overreacting and say things like “I barely touched you” or “that’s nothing compared with what we had to deal with when I was young.”
You might say you’re sorry and that you only act like that because you love them so much and things would be different if they loved you properly in return. You might bring flowers and treats to apologise, promise to change and make an effort to be kind or help them out round the house. But these kindnesses are designed to keep your partner hooked into the relationship and are part of your pattern of abusive behaviour.
Blaming your partner
You might feel your partner makes you angry, provokes you or makes you jealous. But if you think your partner needs to change, to stop you being abusive, then you are not taking responsibility for your own behaviour. You choose to be violent or bullying towards your partner. If they are upsetting you, you can walk away and calm down. If you can control your temper around other people (like your boss) then you can learn to recognise when you’re getting angry and might abuse your loved ones.
Blaming other things
You might have had a bad day or too much to drink. But stress, alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic abuse. Other people have abusive childhoods without abusing their partners as adults or manage mental health disorders without using violence. These are excuses preventing you from taking responsibility for your behaviour. If you feel the need to be in control of your partner and angry when they resist that control, then this is why your relationship is abusive. Other factors can make abuse worse but they are not the real cause.
What can you do?
Only you can choose to stop abusing people you love. Your partner can choose whether or not to stay in the relationship but cannot stop you being abusive. Get help to understand what the underlying causes and triggers are for your abusive behaviour and learn to recognise and manage your reactions. This will be a hard process and facing up to your behaviour and asking for help is a brave thing to do. Ask your GP for counselling or ring the specialist Respect phoneline (details below).
If you are able to change and your partner chooses to stay with you, it will take a long time to rebuild the trust that has been chipped away by your behaviour in the past. Or if your relationship has ended but you want to stay in your children’s lives, accept that they have a right to be angry with you. It will take time for them to trust that you will not hurt them (or your ex-partner) again.
At present in Sheffield the main domestic abuse perpetrators programme is delivered by the Probation Service, but only to men who are successfully prosecuted and receive a community sentence of at least 2 years, to allow enough time to finish the programme.
Anger management courses are not usually helpful for men who are domestic abuse perpetrators.
Domestic abuse perpetrator programmes are:
- There to try to keep your partner/ex and children safe
- An opportunity for you to look honestly at your behaviour and decide what needs to change
- A chance for you to learn new ways of behaving in a relationship
- A help for you to be non-abusive in future relationships
- An opportunity for you to repair your relationship with your children or to understand why they are angry with you
Perpetrator programmes are NOT:
- A guarantee of saving your relationship – that’s up to your partner and you
- A guarantee you will stop abusing – that’s still up to you
- A way of persuading the courts to grant you contact with your children if they have decided you aren’t safe to have direct contact with them – just attending isn’t enough, the courts will want to see that you have changed and the programme staff will be very skilled at assessing if you have
- Couples counselling or marriage guidance
Why are there so few perpetrator programmes?
Domestic abuse services grew out of the women’s movement and they focussed on supporting victims of domestic abuse and helping them to get safe. Some places around the country are now looking at the other side of the picture and are starting to provide programmes for perpetrators (abusers).
Who abuses who?
The majority of domestic abuse is committed by men towards women, although it can also involve men being abused by their female partners, abuse in same sex relationships, and by young people towards other family members, as well as the abuse of older people in families. It also includes forced marriage and honour-based violence. Domestic abuse occurs irrespective of social class, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual relationships or identity.
Support for men and women who want to stop abusing
Respect Phoneline 0845 122 8609
(Monday – Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm)
Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP)
South Yorkshire Probation. Only available through probation services
Relationship advice rather than specialist domestic abuse service, but will work with partners individually to begin with if there is known domestic abuse 0300 100 1234
S.T.O.P. Start Treating Others Positively in Leeds 0113 244 6007