Is the Way He is Treating Me Abusive?

The book Why Does He DO That? by Lundy Bancroft was recently recommended to me by Teh Bewilderness, and by the domestic violence shelter I’ve started volunteering at. It is exceptionally good. It’s written in 2002 by a man who runs programs for abusers, and it shows what tactics they use, as well as how their behavior can be crazy-making for women. Bancroft is very clear that MEN abuse women, and that women do not have the ability to terrorize and undermine men in the way men abuse women. He also discusses the ways in which friends, family, courts, and therapists can often take the abuser’s side without meaning to. He emphasizes that being “neutral” in cases where it is known that abuse is occurring is in fact choosing the side of the abuser.

Anyway, this is a great book, and I recommend every woman read it. We’ve all known (or been) women in abusive situations.

I thought the below checklist was very helpful in helping women discover whether they are in an abusive relationship. The list is taken from pages 124-130 of the book.

About his behavior, he is abusive if:

He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior.

He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment of you are your own problem.

He gives apologies that are insincere or angry and he demands that you accept them.

He blames you for the impact of his behavior.

It is never the right time or the right way to bring things up.

He undermines your progress in life.

He denies what he did.

He justifies his hurtful or frightening behavior or say that you “made him do it”.

He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways.

He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults you.

His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a problem.

About you, if you show signs of abuse such as:

Are you afraid of him?

Are you getting distant with your family and friends because he makes those relationships difficult?

Is your level of energy or motivation declining, or do you feel depressed?

Is your self opinion declining, so that you are always fighting to be good enough and to prove yourself?

Do you find yourself consistently preoccupied with the relationship and how to fix it?

Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?

Do you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your fault?

Do you repeatedly leave arguments feeling like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out why?

If you think you may be in an abusive situation, please contact your local shelter or crisis line. You can just call to talk. They can help. They want you to call. Please call. Also, you can buy the book here.

EDIT: This post got a lot of negative feedback and accusations of misandry (lol) so I wanted to clear up what author Lundy Bancroft of Why Does He DO That? actually says about men and abuse.

This is from page 288-289 of his book, under the subheading “How Society Adopts the Abuser’s Perspective”:

“To the person who says “These abuse activists are anti-male”:

How is it anti-male to be against abuse? Are we supposed to pretend we don’t notice that the overwhelming majority of abusers are male? This accusation parallels the abuser’s words to his partner: The reason you think I’m abusive is because you have a problem with men!” One of the best counters to this piece of side-tracking is to point out how many men are active in combating the abuse of women. Remember also that abused women are the sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends of men. Men’s lives are affected by abuse, because it happens to women we know and care about.”

Additionally, from page 290:

“Everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence. The great majority of allegations of abuse– though not all– are substantially accurate, and an abuser almost never ‘seems like the type’.”

About smash
Women's liberationist.

9 Responses to Is the Way He is Treating Me Abusive?

  1. silverside says:

    I met Lundy once at a meeting on domestic violence in Chautauqua County, NY. Years later, I ran into him at a national conference, and I was amazed that he still remembered me and my case and asked how I was. A sincerely nice and committed person.

    • smash says:

      Thanks for your comment, silverside. I appreciate the info.

    • Wow, amazing Silverside.

      Yes, it is a great book for understanding the techniques abusers use, and also how others can be complicit in allowing them to continue to abuse their target. He also gives a feminist wrap up at the end. Anyone working or volunteering in the DV sector should read that book (one of those “if you only read one book on the subject, read this one” deals).

  2. smash says:

    For those of my readers who are confused about the claim that men are the abusers, check out this awesome post:

    I hope she won’t mind my quoting here:

    “Women are not like men. Even when women do terrible things, they don’t do them like men do them. Because women can’t. It isn’t possible. Women’s behavior may remind us of men’s behavior, but it is never the same as men’s behavior. Because we live under a system of pervasive institutionalized male supremacy.

    To believe that certain women are just as bad as men is to have misunderstood the entire basis of feminism as a form of class-based political analysis and critique. Feminism is concerned with how females, as a class, are oppressed by males, as a class, on the basis of sex. From a feminist perspective, then, the power dynamics between males and females are qualitatively, significantly different than the power dynamics between females. Between females, the cross-sex hierarchy of sexualized politics simply does not exist. Yet between males and females, the politics of sex is always present. It is present regardless of financial status, race, culture, and/or sexuality. So even when women mimic the behavior of men under patriarchy, women are not like men and cannot achieve the same results.

    What I’m arguing here, by analogy, is a fairly straightforward application of the fallacy of reverse racism principle: just as it isn’t possible for people of color to oppress white people (or their fellow people of color) in the way that white people can oppress people of color; it is not possible for women to oppress men (or other women) in the way that men oppress women. Women simply do not have the necessary sex-based social capital to do so. Women can not be like men in that way.”

    • Lindsey says:

      When you explain it like that i know what you mean. Its true, that dispite how butch or “masculine” a woman is, she never does have the sicial power of the most camp or “feminine” man. I think women get accused of becoming like men the second they stop excepting the role of second class, many women think they can off set this by dolling up to in a sense prove they still want to be a woman. This does not work as there are different ways of attacking a woman who steps out of her social role. If a woman dolls up so she carnt be called a man, then they just objectify her instead. I think its better to not take that path as over time self esteam is broken down by trying to fit the dolly look. Since women have gained more power, women have been held to higher standards in the looks department. Worse of all is that women use there own power to put down other women in this way.

      Gender equality is harder to fix then race issues, as women are wired to mate with men so might have some genetic wiring that makes them want to impress them. From the side of an individual straight woman, she can make a quick grab for resources by doing what the man wants. If she goes it alone then she has to compete with men, men are very competitive with each other, more then they are with women as there aim is to aquire the most resources as there hard wired to try and mate with as many women as possible. If they come accross a woman who is not a possible mate, then they will not give her the same slack, but will still not compete with her as much as with another male.

      Women have a drive that works the oppersite, as its her advantage to want the male to get the high position. That way she can get to the resources he aquires by becoming his mate. If a woman gets the position then mating with her to get the money is not an option. Im not saying people go through life with this in mind, there more instincts left over from the past. They might suit the modern world less then the world they evolved for. Just like the drive to eat as much fat and sugar as possible, not everyone has this but many do. All because those things were in short supply in the past.

      Many things we have left over do us harm in the modern world. Inequality and obesity may have a similar origin. Both have to do with aquiring and conserving resources.

  3. smash says:

    BTW I have received many, many comments here and on Reddit calling me a misandrist b*tch, and telling me to f’k myself with a brick for this post (btw we all know that when folks use abusive and misogynistic language they’re no feminists- even if they claim to be).

    Naming the reality of male violence is quite an unpopular act– you know you’re on the right track when the MRAs get mad.

  4. Valerie says:

    Thanks for your article on abusive relationships and men. No one can be abusive like a man can. I recently ended a bad relatonship with someone I met on the internet. He was married and told me upfront and I ended up becoming friendly with his wife! That tore me apart because I never ever wanted to be with a married man. He tried to demand that *I* be monogamous with him! He never trusted me-even when I was with him for 24 hrs it wasn’t enough-he was very controlling/insecure/and manipulative.. When I used to call him on it he’d get extremely angry and even get in my face looking like he was going to hit me. He called me names like cunt bitch and scumbag. He said he didn’t want me working! Oh-the joy of being a feminist and dating someone like this! He’d give me things to make up for the abuse-and it did-for a while or til he did it again. He hated all my friends-these are classic symptoms of an abusive man. I wrote this in hopes of helping another sister break away from her bad situation….

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