In Oscar Wilde's stage comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest," Cecily fantasizes about meeting her guardian's wayward brother: "I've never met a really wicked person before," she muses. "I'm so afraid that he'll look just like everyone else."
Therein lies a profound thought: abusers do not stand out from the crowd. Until one knows an abuser well, he or she DOES look "just like everyone else." Contrary to popular opinion, abusers are rarely angry people.
While they may exhibit anger when they do not get their way, anger is not their primary motivation. Instead, many cite the following as the true causes of domestic violence:
- The need to exercise power and control over one's partner. Often, abusers lack emotional stability and must control those around them to subdue their feeling of inner powerlessness.
- Addictions. While drug and alcohol abuse may be common causes of domestic violence, battering is an addiction in and of itself: abusers get ecstatic pleasure from tormenting their partners and must escalate the violence to continue getting the accustomed "high" which dominating their partners provides.
- Cultural or religious beliefs that favor male superiority. Some abuse victims report that the abuse started on their honeymoons. Some abusers view a marriage license as a deed of ownership, giving them the right to abuse their partners.
- Low self-esteem. Though some abusers commit violent acts due to feelings of superiority, the reverse is also true. If one partner feels beneath the other in physical appearance or intellect, the inferior partner sometimes seeks to "equalize" the relationship by resorting to abuse.
- Jealousy or other intense emotions. Abusers usually lack emotional stability as well as the ability to self-soothe. Since they cannot quiet their own emotions, they lash out at their partner whom they begin to view as their turmoil's source.
- Witnessing or experiencing abuse during childhood. While every rule has its exception, the most widely-accepted of the causes of domestic violence is exposure. Children learn by example--a fact all too graphically exhibited in these truths: a boy that experiences domestic violence will typically become and abuser himself, whereas a girl exposed to domestic violence develops the qualities that tend to attract abusive men.
Thus, the cycle persists. Until a batterer, whether male or female, takes ownership of his/her behavior and ceases to deny, minimize, or excuse it, these causes of domestic violence will continue destroying lives.