Not all abusive relationships involve physical violence...
When people talk about family violence they are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or partner. While physical injuries are the most obvious not all abusive relationships involve physical violence.
Psychological abuse, by default, also occurs when there is intimidation, threats and physical violence. It can also exist in a relationship where controlling behaviour and emotional abuse are common place but never escalate into physical harm.
Regardless of whether there is physical abuse, the outcome of emotional abuse is severe and impacts on the self-worth of the victim. Unfortunately emotional abuse is often minimised or overlooked even by the person being abused.
So how do you know if you are... A victim yourself? And/or Someone who is abusive within their relationship?
There are a number of key ideas discussed within this site...
The first idea is 'responsibility'. In my view responsibility is the ability to respond to situations that we find challenging and distressing. Throughout this site you will find a lot of material around developing skills that will help you to respond respectfully and safely in situations that are tough to manage.
One of the key responsibilities we have as men within our relationships is to ensure everyone is safe and that we do not increase worry and anxiety in others. Ask yourself the following question at any time to test this out...
“Is my behaviour creating worry and anxiety in others... or
is my behaviour creating safety and well-being?”
So what behaviours are OK?
Digging deeper and having a closer look into abusive practices can be really helpful for some men to identify exactly what types of behaviours are 'not OK'.
Work through the following list of behaviours from the 'abusive practices checklist' and consider the behaviours that you've carried out.
There are a lot of things that people say about domestic abuse that are flat out wrong!
Myths serve as convenient excuses for abusers not to take responsibility for their behaviour. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.
Check out the following myths and realities and make your own mind up…
Myth #1 - Women choose this type of man
Most women's experiences show that in the beginning of the relationship men are very attentive, loving and caring. Women are not aware when becoming involved with men whether they are violent or not, there are no signs.
She’ll be sweet looks at power and control in relationships, and emphasises the role of behaviour that is not openly violent.
The short film explores how sometimes behaviour that may seem 'trivial' can play a powerful and destructive role in relationships.
Think of four animals for a moment - a turtle, a shark, a fox and an owl…
The turtle withdraws into its shell when the heat is on, not reappearing until the situation is safe. The shark will circle a couple of times and go in for the kill. The fox has a natural ability to strategise, taking its time to stalk its prey and waiting for the right moment to attack. The owl is perceived as wise, weighing up the situation from all sides.
The qualities of these animals can be perceived as styles people use to deal with conflict. Let’s start with the turtle. Whenever something happens to threaten the turtle’s sense of security, it withdraws and is seen to be sulking and uncommunicative. Turtles are often afraid of the power of their emotions. They will deny that they are feeling a certain way, doubt themselves, and intellectualise (convince themselves that the situation is better than it is). Or they may not believe they have the right to feel a certain way.
This is a question you can ask about any interaction between people…
“Does this interaction build or lessen respect, safety and trust for this person, or does it demean them in some way?”
Abusive behaviour is clearly at the expense of others, whereas respectful behaviour enhances all concerned. Healthy relationships are those where people feel free to disagree. This does not mean that people don’t like or are judging you… it simply means that, from their experiences and understanding, they have a different view. You can agree to disagree over an issue and still remain friends.
Most men grow up with this crazy idea that everyone, partners and children included, shares the same views of the world as them.
It is hard to risk stepping outside of our ‘manly’ culture to see what things are like from other people’s perspectives or cultures – in this case the perspective and culture of women.
To prove this point simply ask yourself the following question...
“Would you put up with your behaviour if you were on the receiving end of it?”
Tony Porter makes a call to men everywhere: Don't "act like a man!"
Telling powerful stories from his own life, Tony Porter shows how the 'male mentality', drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other.
After viewing the media segment consider the reflection questions below.
Is using pornography a problem for men who would like to have equal and respectful relationships?
Men who question the use of porn risk being called “prudish”, “killjoy” or “conservative”. What are your own answers to these questions?
So is there a true distinction between “hard core” and “erotica”?
Hard core porn depicts women being hurt, forced, humiliated and degraded. Erotica is less degrading but still depicts women with a very restricted personal presence. In porn images and videos women are still reduced to narrow aspects of behaviour or body parts.
Does this respect women and our own sexual feelings as men?
SAFETY - EQUALITY - RESPECT
To live safely with someone means keeping them safe from all insults, threats and violence, no matter what they do or say to us. A big ask? Yes, but we have to ask ourselves whether our nonviolence is merely conditional on how others behave. Unless we commit to being safe to live with ‘no matter what,’ it means we are secretly keeping a reserve of abuse and violence up our sleeve (or in a dark corner of our mind) to bring out when we want to punish someone for doing whatever we don’t like.
Which attitude is more courageous and worthy of self-respect for us as men... being safe to live with no matter what, or keeping in reserve the right to punish by abuse or violence?
“Why do people act the way they do?”
This is a commonly asked question when trying to understand behaviour. A much more useful and helpful question to ask is…
“What stops me acting differently, and what is blocking my ability to change?”
It can be very difficult giving up a behaviour that you may have been doing for a long time. It raises questions about the values or beliefs that underpin and maintain your behaviour. Besides, there may be definite short-term payoffs for continuing some behaviours right? These payoffs of course need to be balanced with the costs.
The pattern of abusive behaviour that Frank is expressing in the following story had others feeling afraid of him. His relationship was about to end and he was doubting his ability to change.
Frank (aged 35) tells his story…
Statistics show that many women endure severe physical and psychological abuse in violent relationships and generally leave then return many times before they make a permanent change.
Watch Leslie Morgan Steiner talk about how the man that she was madly in love with routinely abused her and threatened her life.
After viewing the media segment consider the reflection questions below.
Men are not by nature bad communicators.
Men will make decisions about how, when and how much energy they put into conversing with others. I have met a number of men who are incredibly well spoken in the public world, but struggle to clearly sort things out in their private lives.
As Harold said…
“This was my second marriage. I wasn’t a good communicator. I could talk at work and speak in public but one-to-one I was hopeless.”
In Harold’s case it is not a matter of having a lack of skills to communicate… The problem was his beliefs about putting the same energy into talking at a personal level. So what stops these same men effectively communicating with their partners and others?
Understanding why men use abuse and violence can be tough!
All of us know that behaviour is often learnt from what we see, hear and experience as children, however people often have judgemental views and attitudes about men who are abusive.
To truly make a difference in our own lives and the lives of our families we must get away from the idea of being punitive.
In the above clip you will hear from several men who have all gone through family violence programmes. In the clip they discuss their experience of perpetrating violence and abuse within their families and offer some insight into some of the factors that may have contributed to the abuse.
After viewing the media clip consider the reflection questions below...
Understanding... Truly understanding the effects of abusive practices on others is a great 'first step' towards positive change
As a way to understand family violence from the victims point of view, listen to Patrick Stewart talk about his experience of domestic violence and how it has deeply affected him both as a child growing up in violence and today as an adult.
After viewing to the media clip consider these reflection questions…
Have you been conned?
Like many men, you may have been conned by the Old Rule Book (and the family you grew up in) to behave in certain ways. Like any con, it loses its power once it’s exposed. Once you see the situation for what it is you are in a strong position to make other choices – that is… the choice to make a change!
Human nature is a tricky thing because it invites you (wants you) to act in the same ways and do the same things to resolve a problem. What this does, is gets you stuck even more. When you understand where your patterns of behaviour come from and what around you is supporting these behaviours, you’re in a good position to rewrite your own story.
The Old Rule Book was made up of the following ideas…
If you are here you are either struggling or know someone who is struggling with abusive practices. Over the past 30 years I've worked with literally hundreds of men who have struggled to overcome the lesson they learnt in their families which is...
“Abusive practices are okay and work to get you what you want.”
I want to say that despite the messages we get as men that 'using abusive practices is okay', abusive practices are bad news for everyone and impact on everyone involved in negative ways. The good news is that these are learned behaviours and with persistence and effort it is possible to overcome these and have a good life. A good life has huge benefits for us as men and for all of the other people in our lives.
Ken McMaster (MSW Hons, CQSW, MANZASW) has a thirty year history working at the cutting edge of intervention work with men who are violent and who sexually abuse.
Suzi Hall (M.A. Psych) has a background of working in child protection and forensic interviewing of children with Child Youth and Family Services.
Matt Williams (BTcLn, NCALNE) has a 15 year history working within the social service and criminal justice sectors as a trainer and program developer.