Characteristics of Partner Violence

Domestic Violence and abuse can happen to anyone with no regard to size, gender, or even strength.  The abuser can be male or female and often times it is someone the victim knows personally or on an intimate level.  Domestic violence is often times overlooked, excused, or denied.  Victims will place blame on themselves and will do what they can to protect the perpetrator.  Emotional abuse is most often disregarded because it is unseen, but it can leave the deepest scars.  You do not have to live in fear.  Being aware of warning signs and potential characteristics of an abuser may help protect potential victims from entering a dangerous and violent relationship.  This paper will pinpoint four characteristics that have been identified as the most common in potential abusers.  Knowing what signs to look for in an intimate partner may just save your life.

You may wonder what a perpetrator may look like; they do not walk around with a sign that reads “abuser,” and most likely they will not tell you upfront in their introduction that they possess violent or controlling tendencies.  An intimate partner may use psychological, emotional, and physical abuse along with spurts of love, happiness, and respect; known as the “good times.”  An abuser can act out violently and within minutes feel shame and regret.  Speaking from my personal experience as a victim, my abuser would shame me with words and hit me.  The next day he would shower me with gifts; a diamond bracelet, dinner, flowers, or a new dress.  This creates confusion for the victim and generates submission.  The abuser wants to be in control and dominate the victim.  Seeking dominance in the relationship displays a lack of respect for the partner and can be set off by jealousy. (Gosselin, 2010 p.247) This jealousy sets a spiral effect of obsessive behaviors in which the aggressor keeps the partner under supervision with check in’s, the need to know where the partner is at all times and who they are spending their time with.  David Adams, author of “Why do they kill?  Men who murder their intimate partners,” found the obsession to dominate their partner led to very violent crimes, a murder of passion.  The jealous type is very common in domestic violence cases in which the man is the aggressor.  Throw in drugs or alcohol and a gun into the mix and we are looking at a very dangerous man.  Adams reported he found this to be the case in 40 percent of the men he interviewed.  (Auchter NIJ Journal, 2010)

Many abusers isolate their partner from family, friends, and coworkers.  Isolation occurs when the abuser is seeking attention and wants the partner all to them self.  The abuser will start out by inching their way into the victim’s life little by little, until they have gained complete control, in which the victim may not even be permitted to leave their home.  This isolation keeps the victim from personal connections that could ultimately be support and help when the abuse escalates.   Sharon Long lived with her boyfriend of 2 years.  She was not permitted to work nor could she visit family unless he was with her.  Teddy, her boyfriend made sure that she was never alone with anyone; to keep her from speaking up and reporting the abuse.  She was not allowed to have a cell phone and he set up surveillance cameras that were connected to his iPhone to watch her when he was at work.  Sharon stated that she no longer felt like a person, she had no emotions and no relationships with anyone.  “Teddy threatened to kill my family if I was to ever see them alone or suggest to them that he was abusing me.” (Long, 2014)

Abusers are also great manipulators.  They tend to confuse the victim by lashing out at them and then quickly apologizing in very sincere patterns that lead the victim to believe the apology.  In Daughters in Danger, Bennett shares the most common thread in the domestic violence cases she studied, was the abuser apologized and promised the abuse was going to stop; halting the victim from leaving or seeking help.  One of the cases that Bennett brings light is the Yeardley Love murder in North Carolina.  Yeardley Love was murdered by her alcoholic boyfriend.  He was very aggressive when he was drunk and became uncontrollable.  Love tried to leave Huguely on a number of occasions but when he sobered up, he would be regretful and promise to get help.  He was the star of the lacrosse team and went to all the parties on the college campus and every time he would get drunk and threaten Love.  Alcohol impaired him and brought out a very dark and violent side of him that ultimately pushed him to murder Yeardley Love.  (Bennett, 2013 p.24-26)

When an abuser is impaired by drugs or alcohol the level of danger for the victim increases.  By increasing the violent behavior from the abuser, the substances will also increase the severity of the injury for the victim.  It is not that matter of the substance making the aggressor violent, but that it changes the way the brain thinks and the emotions.  Alcohol and drugs impair the human mind and simply disinhibits normal functions.   “Probably the largest contributing factor to domestic violence is alcohol. All major theorists point to the excessive use of alcohol as a key element in the dynamics of wife beating. However, it is not clear whether a man is violent because he is drunk or whether he drinks to reduce his inhibitions against his violent behavior” (Labell, 1979 p. 264).

It is key to be aware when involved in an intimate relationship.  When we stay aware we are able to see our partner for who they truly are.  We do not need to wait for the mask to fall off and their true self be unveiled.  We must be on the lookout for jealous, manipulative, controlling, isolating partners and steer clear.  Knowledge is power and in cases of domestic violence knowledge is a matter of living.  Do not live with a blindfold on, cause it may cause you to live in a forever darkness.


Gosselin, D. (2010). Adult Perpetrators. In Heavy hands: An introduction to the crimes of family violence (4th ed., pp. 246-250). Boston: Prentice Hall.

Auchter, B. (2010). Men Who Murder Their Families: What the Research Tells Us. NIJ, 266.

This site is a .gov and a reputable source of information.

Structure: Long, S (2014, September 4). Personal Interview

Hamel, J. (2007). Label Family interventions in domestic violence a handbook of gender-inclusive theory and treatment (p. 264). New York: Springer Pub.

Bennett, E., & Meeker, M. (2013). In Loco Parentis. In Daughters in danger: Helping our girls thrive in today’s culture (pp. 24-26). Nashville: Nelson Books.

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