Characteristics of Batterers

Many batterers have characteristics that make them prone to violent or verbally abusive outbursts. Some people have these characteristics and are not batterers, and some batterers lack these traits. This is a list of the common characteristics, not a definitive diagnosis.

Low self-esteem

While they may appear tough and confident, most batterers have low self-esteem. Batterers can actually be very dependent on their partners, becoming abusive, controlling, and jealous when they feel their relationship is threatened. Batterers often display narcissistic traits, compensating for low self-esteem through overconfidence and bragging.

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Excessively jealous

In relationships, it’s normal for people to experience some amount of jealousy. However, abusers mistake the feeling of jealousy as a sign of love, which strengthens their acts of excessive possessiveness. This leads them to distrust their partners even without any real evidence of infidelity, unlike healthy relationships.

Controlling behavior

Batterers attempt to control their partners’ decisions and actions. They may be overly upset about their partners arriving home late from a party. They justify their yelling and aggressive behaviors by saying they’re merely “concerned” for their partners’ safety. Over time, abusers will make more and more decisions about their partners’ lives, mimicking a parent-child relationship. They may withhold money and resources from their partners and even determine the clothing their partners wear. Both partners do not have equal power and say in these relationships. Rather, the batterer makes most of the decisions.

Cruelty to animals or children

Abusers tend to be insensitive to pain experienced by animals or children. They have very high and unrealistic expectations of animals and children. To punish children, they may overly tease them. Abusers can be critical of children their partners have from previous relationships. They may control their partners by preventing them from seeing their children or animals. They may threaten to harm their children or pets. Sixty percent of abusers who are violent toward their partners beat their children as well. Survivors may stay in a relationship because they have children together, believing the children’s lives would be worse if they left the abusers. This isn’t true – children who are survivors of abuse or constantly witnesses violence in the household have a greater tendency to develop an anxiety disorder, mental and physical illnesses, depression, and violent behaviors of their own. They mimic the abuser as they grow older. It is more beneficial for a parent to remove a child from an abusive household than to stay with the batterer.

Use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress

Drugs and alcohol, although not specific causes of the violence, are often ingested by batterers when they are being abusive. When batterers use drugs and alcohol, their inhibitions are lowered. This makes it more difficult to curb their violent behaviors and desires. Perpetrators tend to have a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse than non-batterers.

Blame others for their actions

Rather than take responsibility for their violent behaviors, abusers blame the victim. For example, they tell them, “you made me hit you because of what you did.” Anything bad or upsetting that occurs in the abusers’ lives gets twisted to become his or her partner’s fault. Abusers often fail to acknowledge their mistakes. They often manipulate their partners, making them believe that they caused and deserved the abuse because of their actions.

Poor communication skills

Rather than discussing their feelings with their partners in a positive and constructive manner, batterers use violence and threats to express their anger and frustrations. They can make threats of abuse or literally abuse their partners on the spot when they feel uncomfortable, inadequate, or hurt. Male batterers may be hyper-masculine. They may believe that expressing their thoughts feelings through calm words is a sign of weakness.

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Isolate their partners from their friends and family

Abusers want their partners lives to be centered around them. They may separate their partners from by calling them derogatory names such as “slut” if they have friends of the opposite gender. They may also suggest that their friends and family are a negative influence. Abusers may create lies about their partner’s friends and family, making them seem like bad people who are nothing but trouble. They” limit their partners’ time with friends and family, claiming it’s for their own good. When separated from their support systems, victims of domestic violence have a more difficult time attempting to leave their relationship because their resources have diminished. As a result of being isolated, they become more dependent on their abusers.

The “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality

Batterers can be very good actors and can hide their negative attributes from their friends and family, only showing their true self to their partners. Outside people may even comment on how wonderful he or she is. Batterers often have narcissistic traits and can be very charming, often holding prominent positions in the community, such as leaders or police officers. This can cause the victim to question their own perceptions of his or her partner because everyone else thinks he or she is so great. Sometimes significant others will deny the stories or blame survivors for making the batterers angry, which justifies abusers’ violent actions. This can make victims prone to believing the myths about batterers and create even more self-blame.

Hyper-masculine males

Male abusers often overcompensate with hyper-masculinity in order to boost their self-esteem and strengthen their egos. They often expect their partners to comply with traditional gender roles. As the men of the house, they expect to have power and control over all individuals in their home. Even with sexual activities, they enjoy dominating their partners through force. Abusers may believe that their partners should satisfy their desires at their whim without regard for their partners’ needs, feelings, or preferences.


Batterers may take normal requests, such as asking for help with chores, as personal attacks. They are easily insulted and will vocalize their feelings through harsh language and also use violence.

No one should live in fear of the person they love.

If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. We can help. You can learn more about the cycle of violence here.


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