Looks Can Be Deceiving in Domestic Violence Intervention


18075128 sDifferent people can do the exact same thing for entirely different reasons.  Consider a Sunday morning church service. There might be 200 people in the service singing, praying, and listening to a sermon. While everyone looks like they are doing the same thing, they likely have different motives for being there. Some are probably there to commune with God. Others are there for the social interaction. Still others are there because their spouse or parent insisted. While all in attendance are seemingly doing the same thing this Sunday morning, their motives for being there vary widely. 

The same is true for those who batterer. While all battering behavior is an effort to gain domination and control, understanding the motive that drives this quest for domination and control is crucial for effective intervention and safety planning. A "one size fits all" perspective reduces a program's effectiveness and can leave victims extremely vulnerable. The Family Peace Initiative has operated since its inception with an understanding of different motives of those who batter. Here is the way we break down the common motives among those who batter, and how the differences can impact their victims.  

 Entitlement-based: This is likely the most common motive. Similar to a ship captain, those motivated by entitlement set the rules, expect to be obeyed, and believe they are superior in the relationship. This group commonly believes that their partner's role is to serve them. A motto for these individuals would be “my way or the highway”.  There is wide variance in this group, as some are emotionally connected to their spouse/partner, while others view partners as “a dime a dozen” and “replaceable”. Victims report conflicts in these relationships centering around convenience, money, possessions or status. Often, the entitlement-based have the power in their relationship, while the victim has all household responsibilities. The victims of the entitlement-based will often be at their greatest risk when their partner doesn't have "what they want when they want it". 

Similar to a ship captain, those motivated by entitlement set the rules, expect to be obeyed, and believe they are superior in the relationship

Survival-Based: It has been our experience that this is the most lethal group of batterers. As the name would suggest, people driven by this motive believe the loss of their partner will destroy them.  This can happen two different ways: 1) they believe they will be nothing and have no one without their partner, or 2) they are highly narcissistic and believe the separation will destroy them through damaging their reputation. This group is highly invested in keeping the relationship, but when they believe their partner is indeed abandoning them, they "flip the switch" into terror and rage. Survival-based batterers might exhibit some entitlement, but it is the fear of rejection and the horror of being alone or exposed that primarily drives their abusive behaviors. The Survival-based motivated often have little or no emotional connection with others beyond their partner and kids. They have commonly experienced extensive cruelty in childhood. The victims of those with survival-based motive are at most risk after leaving the relationship, and are at their most extreme danger when their partner realizes they are not coming back.  In some cases, the victims of survival-based batterers report never being afraid for their own safety prior to the relationship ending.  Protection orders are rarely helpful to these victims, as those who are survival based often do not care what happens to them after "flipping the switch".  This group is responsible for many of the homicide-suicides or familicides that occur. 

Survival-based batterers might exhibit some entitlement, but it is the fear of rejection and the horror of being alone or exposed that primarily drives their abusive behaviors

Sadistic-based: This group gains pleasure not only from sadistic acts, but by planning and plotting how to inflict cruelty on their partner. The level of torture must increase for the sadistic-based to continue getting the same level of enjoyment. Often, the way to identify the sadistic-based is to speak to their victims. Tell-tale signs are the victim experiencing severe mind games or describing torturous devices being used. Fortunately, sadistic-based people are few and far between. Victims of the sadistic-based are likely to be in much more danger while in the relationship, than after escaping. Those who are sadistic get much enjoyment out of fooling the world. If this victim escapes, the sadistic-based will be on the hunt for another victim. 

When taught about the different motives, participants in our Family Peace Initiative BIP can easily identify what motives drive their abusive behavior. Understanding motive impacts the intervention and the safety planning our staff use, as the different motives present different risks at different times. 

Mastering the craft of facilitation requires an understanding that people can do the exact same behavior for entirely different motives. Focusing solely on behavior can leave us blind to potential risk. 

Happy September Everyone. Thanks for your dedication to mastering your craft!  

To hear Dorthy Stucky Halley, LMSW talk about the different Batterer Motive more extensively,  Click here . 


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