Have low self esteem.
Even though a lot of abusers might appear to be 'tough", "strong", and "confident", more often than not they really suffer from low self-esteem. They may feel that they fall short in the area of their own sex stereotype and so they overcompensate with hyper-masculinity. If they are emotionally "needy", and they have become dependent on their partner, the thought of losing that partner feels threatening and thus behaviors of controlling and jealousy follow.
Rush in to relationships
Many victims dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. Abusers can come on like a whirl-wind claiming "love at first sight", and using flattery such as "you are the only person I could ever talk to", "I have never felt loved like this by anyone". They may need someone desperately, and will pressure the other partner to commit to a relationship before they are truely ready.
Are excessively jealous
An abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love; it's a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. In a healthy relationship, the partners trust each other unless one of them has legitimately done something to break that trust.
Exhibit controlling behavior
Often at the beginning, a batterer will say that this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety, a need for you to use time well or to make good decisions. Abusers will be angry if you are "late" coming back from the store or an appointment; you will be questioned closely about where you went, who you talked to. At this behavior gets worse, the abuser may not let you make personal decisions about the house, your clothing, or going to church. They may keep all the money; or may make you ask permission to leave the house or room.
Have unrealistic expectations or demands
Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all their needs: the perfect partner, lover, and friend. They say things like "if you love me, I'm all you need and you are all I need". They may expect you to take care of everything for them; emotionally, physically, and sometimes economically. However, this is not natural or healthy in a relationship. Instead, partners in healthy relationships encourage each other to pursue their dreams, to have friends and interests outside of the relationship and take pride in their partner in these things.
Use isolation to keep you centered on them
The abusive person tries to cut the partner off from all resources. If you have same-sex friends, you are a "whore", a "slut" or "cheating". If you are close to family, you are "tied to the apron strings". The abuser will accuses people who are supportive of causing trouble, and may restrict use of the phone. They will gradually isolate you from all of your friends. They may not let you use a car (or have one that is reliable), and may try to keep you from working or going to school. Some abusers will try to get you into legal trouble so that you are afraid to drive or go out.
Believe in male supremacy and the stereotyped masculine role in the family.
Abusers are often obsessive about appearing to the "the man of the house" and they tend to hold very high and rigid rules about how they get act because they are "the man" - often leading them to feel the need to dominate and control and to expect their word and their needs to be catered to at all times, including in the bedroom. The abuser sees you as unintelligent, inferior, responsible for menial tasks, and less than whole without the relationship. They will often tell you that no one else would want you or that you are nothing without them. They will remind you of their "provider role" - everything they have done for you.
Use of force during sex
This kind of person may like to act out fantasies where the partner is helpless. They let you know that the idea of rape is exciting. They may show little concern about whether you wants to have sex, and use sulking or anger to manipulate you. They may start having sex with you while you are sleeping, or demand sex when you are ill or tired. They may want to "make up" by having sex after they have just been physically or verbally abusive to you.
Have poor communication skills
Some people talk with their words, while others talk with their fists (actions). Batterers typically have trouble with discussing "feelings", especially very strong ones like anger or frustration. Some may feel that "having feelings" and talking out problems goes against the sterotyped male role that they have bought into (see above). Without the skills or self-permission to express themselves in constructive ways (ie in a way that feels uncomfortable or where they feel inadequate), they often lash out with violence.
Use drinking and battering to cope with stress.
Abusers in general have a higher incident of drug and alcohol abuse than non-batterers. This doesn't mean that drugs or alcohol CAUSE the abuse, rather it lowers inhibitions making an already frustrated and violence-prone person more likely to fall back on violence as a crutch, especially when confronted with their lack of communication skills and any feelings of inadequacy.
Blame others for their actions
Commonly, batterers use the actions of others as excuses for their own behavior. They blame the person who made them angry, as if that person were pushing some magic button that released violent behavior. How often have victims heard "why did you make me do that"? If your partner is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing them wrong or is out to get them. They may make mistakes and then blame you for upsetting them so that they can't concentrate on their work. They may tell you that YOU are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong. Abusive people will might say, "you made me mad" and "I can't help being angry". Although they actually make the decision about how they think or feel, they will use feelings to manipulate you. Abusers see themselves as the "victim" in the relationship, and do not take responsibility for their own feelings or behaviors.
Are prone to hypersensativity
Abusers are easily insulted, and may take the slightest setback as a personal attack. They will rant and rave about the injustice of things that are really just a part of living, such as having to get up for work, getting a traffic ticket, or being asked to help with chores.
Present two sides to their personalities
Often the most frustrating thing for the victim, many abusers are excellent actors. They may appear to function well at work, with friends and family, etc. Sometimes only the battered spouse is aware of the true "nature of the beast". This often makes it difficult for a victim to reach out for support from friends and family, because those persons may try to talk the victim out of thinking that their spouse is a batterer. Often a victims friends and family will go on and on about "what a great guy you've got there" - because the batterer has successfully hidden their violence at home. It's even MORE frustrating for the victim when members of their support system try to turn the tables and say things like "well, just don't make him mad". They're putting the blame on the VICTIM and not on the offender where it belongs! When this happens, the violent partner gets backup from the very people the victim NEEDS for support and they too fall into the trap of myths about the nature and causes of family violence!
Exhibit cruelty to animals or children
This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. They may expect children to be capable of things beyond their ability. They may tease children and younger brothers and sisters until they cry. They may be very critical of other people's children or any children you bring into the relationship. Your partner may threaten to prevent you from seeing children you have no biological rights to, or punish children to get even with you. About 60% of people who beat their partner also beat their children. Of course the OPPOSITE of this can be true also. Abused women often say that they stay "for the sake of the kids, because he's a great father to them." Unfortunately, one parent abusing another is one of the greatest risk factors for child abuse as well as for children to sink into depression, anxiety disorders and other mental and physical illnesses. Abuse also models the role of violence to the children as THEY grow up and into relationships of their own.
If people, in relationships believe that they are entitled to give orders - that it is their right - they don’t necessarily think that ordering their mate around is abusive. They usually think that their assumed rights, prerogatives and privileges make this kind of behavior okay. They are then blind to their abusive behavior.
Similarly, they may think that they have a right to put down their partner, or to tell their partner what s/he’s thinking, meaning, and so forth. They might think they are entitled to act the way they do because of their age, because they’ve been around the place longer, are of a superior gender or race, or because they make more money than their mate. Their sense of entitlement blinds them to their abusive behavior.
The abuser may think verbal and/or physical abuse - acts against their mate - are justified because their mate “makes them do it". Many people who batter both verbally and physically and who are jailed as a consequence, believe it is their mate’s fault - as if their mate did the verbal and physical abusing. This “crazy” thinking blinds them to their abusive behavior.
The abuser may hold a belief in the right of one person to wield power over another person. This belief blinds abusers to their abusive behavior.
People who indulge in verbal abuse are also blinded to their abusive behavior when they are lacking in the ability to acknowledge and accept their mate’s feelings, interests, talents, perspectives and opinions. This inability to acknowledge others' feelings may sometimes be as a result of a personality disorder or even a result of childhood abuse that the abuser has experienced.
“Society expects the mother of a toddler would do everything in her power to make sure her child is protected from harm,”
While female sexual abusers are rare in the court system, those who deal with child sexual abuse know that cases that do come through are far from unique. A national study released in 2005 shows that biological mothers were the perpetrators of sexual abuse in five per cent of the substantiated cases investigated by child welfare authorities.
The instance is probably higher, since researchers are certain that many cases of child sexual abuse never come to light. “A lot of people have difficulty believing women are capable of sexually abusing children,”
Even victims of such abuse, looking back at it as adults, have a hard time talking about it. When work and survays have been done within prisons it is found that many men had been abused by women but that they often had difficulty identifying it as abuse.
A U.S. report, entitled Child Sexual Abuse — The Predators, explains it this way. “Mothers generally have more intimate contact with their children, and the lines between maternal love and care and sexual abuse are not as clear-cut as they are for fathers”. Therefore, the report says, “Sexual abuse by mothers may remain undetected because it occurs at home and is either denied or never reported.”
A 2003 U.S. study questioned a random sample of adults to determine the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse. It found that of the 32 per cent of females and 14 per cent of males who identified themselves as victims, nine per cent of women and 39 per cent of men said they had been abused by at least one female.
While figures are usually inflated, studies of male sex offenders show 45 to 50 per cent were themselves victims of sexual abuse. Currently research is ongoing into counselling practices for female survivors of sexual abuse to see if they should be asked if they’ve ever in turn abused anyone.
Why has it taken so long to bring out the problem of female sexual abuse?
Female sexual abuse seems to be more of a taboo because:
(1) Female sexual abuse is more threatening – it undermines feelings about how women should relate to children.
(2) It has taken years for people to recognise that children are sexually abused, but that sexual abuse has been placed in the context of male power and aggression. Women are not supposed to be sexually aggressive and the male power theory eliminates them as possible abusers, unless they are coerced by males.
(3) People find it difficult to understand exactly how a woman could sexually abuse a child. They are not seen to be capable of this kind of abuse.
(4) When adult survivors of female abuse have told their stories, they have often met with the rebuttal that they are fantasising. A child recently told that her mother had sexually abused her, along with the child’s father. The therapeutic team took the view that she was clearly projecting and fantasising. The abuse by the father was never in doubt. Only after a second assessment by a well-known team at a children’s hospital, was the child believed.
(5) Current statistics indicate that sexual abuse of children by females is rare. Estimates are that 5% of abuse of girls and 20% of abuse of boys is perpetrated by women’10. Previous statistics indicated that child sexual abuse was rare, even by males. That has since been shown to be untrue. Statistics are based upon what we are told and may give a false picture if some victims are not telling.
How many of the victims of female sexual abuse are boys? How many are girls?
Approximately 40% men; 60% women.
Do victims of female abuse suffer in similar ways to victims of male abuse?
Like the victims of male abuse, their lives have been dramatically affected. They have: turned to drugs, alcohol, solvents; often attempted suicide; and may have gender identity problems. One man, made to dress in girl’s underwear by his abusers, has continued this behaviour into
adult life and has difficulty with relationships. A disturbing aspect of some of the cases is the hatred of and violence towards women and girls that some of the men admit feeling.
The abused also often have:
(i) difficulties maintaining relationships
(ii) unresolved anger, shame and guilt
(iii) self- mutilated
(iv) been anorexic or bulimic
(v) suffered chronic depression
(vi) suffered from panic attacks
(vii) become agoraphobic
(viii) in some cases, sexually abused children
(ix) been fearful of touching their own children
How much abuse by mothers affected the adult survivors?
Those who were sexually abused by their mothers seem to have an overpowering need to find
bonding mother- love. Many of the survivors say that, though they hate their mothers for what they did, they still want to be loved by their mothers and would not confront them – as one woman said ‘with flowers, let alone with the abuse that she perpetrated on me’.