Inside the mind of Child Abusers
It is important to know your abusers as people, not inhuman monsters that came out of nowhere. Not only does this help you realize they are not all-powerful or cannot be beaten or escaped from, it helps you identify the traits that you might see in your present and future relationships. If you can’t see the enemy, then how can you avoid the enemy? Abusers wear masks. Never will you ever hear neighbors or friends of an molester or killer say “I knew he was the type as soon as I saw him, I couldn’t trust him.” No, you hear “He acted perfectly normal, I had no idea he could do something like this, he seemed like a great person.” I hope this page helps to unmask the potential abuser you may meet in life, or the one you already know.
Donald Dutton describes three types of abusers in his book The Batterer, a Psychological Profile
Psychopathic Abusers- absence of remorse
unrealistic view of the future
history of both violent and nonviolent criminal activity
change is unlikely because this abuser is unable to learn from experiences
Overcontrolled Abusers- control freak
emotional manipulation of victim
destroys the victim’s sense of themselves as an individual — they become an extension of their abuser
Cyclical Abuser- stereotypical abuser
predictable patterns of escalating tension, violent outbursts and periods of denial or atonement
see the victim as simultaneously engulfing them and abandoning them
emotional intimacy is both desired and feared
often described as two people — the one he presents to the victim and the one he presents to others
hold victim responsible for his feelings and actions
There is no clear definition of what constitutes an abusive parent. Only a small number of child abusers are mentally ill or psychotic. Most simply cannot control their impulses under stress. They take out frustrations, or make up for a lack of self-esteem, by abusing children.
A sad fact is that many child abusers were, themselves, abused. Their behavior is handed down from their own parents. In these cases, neither the child nor the abuser may know what the limits should be.
Abuser Behavior (Physical):
Uses harsh discipline inappropriate to child's age, transgression, and condition; Has performance expectations which are beyond the age capabilities of the child; Offers illogical, unconvincing, contradictory, or no explanation of child's injury; Seems unconcerned about child; Significantly misperceives child (e.g., sees child as bad, evil, a monster, etc.); Psychotic or psychopathic; Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Attempts to conceal child's injury or to protect identity of person responsible.
Abuser Behavior (Emotional):
Blames or belittles child; Is cold and rejecting; Withholds love; Treats siblings unequally; Seems unconcerned about child's problems.
Abuser Behavior (Sexual):
Extremely protective or jealous of child; Encourages child to engage in prostitution or sexual acts; Has been sexually abused as a child; Is experiencing marital difficulties; Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Is frequently absent from home; Has difficulty in interacting emotionally with adults.
Abuser Behavior (Neglect):
Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Maintains chaotic home life; Shows evidence of apathy or futility; Is mentally ill or of diminished intelligence; Has history of neglect as a child; Overly self absorbed.
Abusive people typically think they are unique, really so different from other people that they don't have to follow the same rules everyone else does. But rather than being unique, abusers have a lot in common with one another, including their patterns of thinking and behaving. The following are some of their characteristics. The following uses a male gender, but we know abusive people can be male or female.
Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the abuser tries to justify his behavior with excuses. For example: "My parents never loved me" or "My parents beat me" or "I had a bad day, and when I walked in and saw this mess, I lost my temper" or "I couldn't let her talk to me that way. There was nothing else I could do."
The abuser shifts responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto others, a shift that allows him to be angry at the other person for causing his behavior. For example: "If you would do what I tell you to, I wouldn't have to hit you."
The abuser believes he would be rich, famous, or extremely successful in some other terms if only other people weren't holding him back. Their blocking his way makes him feel justified in getting back at them, including through abuse. The abuser also puts other people down verbally as a way of building himself up.
The abuser controls the situation by lying to control the information available. The abuser also may use lying to keep other people, including his victim, off-balance psychologically. For example, he tries to appear truthful when he's lying, he tries to look deceitful even when he's telling the truth, and sometimes he reveals himself in an obvious lie.
Above the Rules
As mentioned earlier, an abuser generally believes he is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules that ordinary people do. That attitude is typical of convicted criminals, too. Each inmate in a jail typically believes that while all the other inmates are criminals, he himself is not. An abuser shows above-the-rules thinking when he says, for example, 'I don't need counseling. Nobody knows as much about my life as I do. I can handle my life without help from anybody."
Making Fools of Others
The abuser combines tactics to manipulate others. The tactics include lying, upsetting the other person just to watch his or her reactions, and provoking a fight between or among others. Or, he may try to charm the person he wants to manipulate, pretending a lot of interest or concern for that person in order to get on his or her good side.
The abuser usually keeps his abusive behavior separate from the rest of his life. The separation is physical; for example, he will beat up family members but not people outside his home. The separation is psychological; for example, the abuser attends church Sunday morning and beats his kids Sunday night. He sees no inconsistency in his behavior and feels justified in it.
The abuser ducks responsibility for his actions by trying to make them seem less important than they are. For example, "I didn't hit you that hard, you bruise easily," or 'I only hit one of the kids. I could have hit them all."
Thinking and speaking vaguely lets the abuser avoid responsibility. For example, "I hit him because he's a bad kid."
Abusive people are not actually angrier than other people. However, they deliberately use their anger to control situations and people. For example, "Shut up or I'll break your neck." Anger is a very effective tool abusers use.
The abuser uses various tactics to overcome resistance to his bullying. For instance, he walks out of the room when the victim is talking, or out-shouts the victim, or organizes other family members or associates to "gang up" on the victim in shunning or criticizing her.
Occasionally the abuser will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate others into helping him. Here, the abuser thinks that if he doesn't get what he wants, he is the victim; and he uses the disguise of victim to strike back at or make fools of others.
Drama and Excitement
Abusive people often have trouble experiencing close, satisfying relationships with other people. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Abusive people find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they'll use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.
The abusive person does not tell much about himself and his real feelings. He is not open to new information about himself, either, such as insights into how others see him. He is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. He believes he is right in all situations.
The abuser typically is very possessive. Moreover, he believes that anything he wants should be his, and he can do as he pleases with anything that is his. That attitude applies to people as well as to possessions. It justifies his controlling others behavior, physically hurting them, and taking things that belong to them.
The abuser usually thinks of himself as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient, and very masculine. His picture of the ideal man often is the cowboy, adventurer, or pirate. My mother saw herself as Cinderella, a beautiful princess being misused and underappreciated, when in fact she was fat and not at all pleasant to be around. When anyone says or does anything that doesn't fit his glorified self-image, the abuser takes it as an insult.
They make themselves feel better at our expense. After talking to them you feel drained and exhausted, almost as if the life was sucked right out of you. Guess what- it has!
These abusers act on greed and financial profit obtained in involvement in the "sex trade." They also derive pleasure in satisfying their own and the family/group's sexually deviant desires. A lot of it is about power; their message is "Look at me, I am so powerful I can make you do ANYTHING." They want to gain prestige, benefits, and power within their group. They may also benefit by getting a job, positional power, or other wealth within mainstream society by meeting the exploitive demands by those outside or inside their group. They may also be soothing their guilt by doing it in the sight of approving others, thinking "If they think it's ok, then it's ok."
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