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Domestic Violence: The Perspective of a Perpetrator

Rebeca Camacho

University of Texas at El Paso



Domestic violence has been a long-fought issue with no end in sight and many

continue to wonder why. Often times what we fail to realize is the other side of domestic

violence: the perpetrators. In many cases, we turn to the victims perspective of the

violence and ignore the perpetrators involvement completely, casting them aside as

criminals. However, due to this problem, we never ask the big questions about why the

perpetrator is being abusive and how we can stop this abuse from occurring in the future.

This paper explores the perspective of the perpetrators and what could be causing them

to act out in such violent manners. It is meant to inform readers of our need to understand

the perpetrators perspective in order to deteriorate the long-time existing violence that

many still face in our country.



Though rates for domestic violence have dropped at a staggering rate over the last

30 years, there is still a very large percentage of the population facing abuse. Around the

world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise

abused in her lifetime, (Newton, 2001, p. 12) and due to societal norms, it will continue

to plague our society unless change is made. In order to end this societal ill, we must first

understand its roots through the review of these research questions:

1. What is domestic violence and how has it changed over time?

2. Why do perpetrators of domestic violence behave the way they do?
3. What are some characteristics that perpetrators of domestic violence might have

and why is it important to recognize them?

4. Why is it important to see the perpetrators side of the issue?

These questions will narrow the purpose of this literature review by providing

background on the issue and how it has changed over time, the reasons for perpetrators

actions, characteristics of perpetrators, and the importance of the perpetrators


What is Domestic Violence and How Has It Changed Over Time?

The term domestic violence has changed over time due to evolution of society; it

is now defined as any form of abusephysical, psychological, sexual, emotional, etc.

inflicted on an individual by a current or former partner and over time has changed in

many different ways (Newton, 2001). Because domestic violence was once a very

prominent and legal thing in society, women grew tired of the constant abuse and began

to rise against it. Due to civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1950s and 1960s

(Samaritan House, n.d., p. 2), a foundation for the feminist movement was laid out in

order for women to stand up against the violence they were facing. By the 1970s,

domestic violence had become a public issue and [t]he battered womens movement was

put in to the public arena because of three social movements that were [already] under

way: womens liberation, womens health, and anti-rape movements (Samaritan House,

n.d., p. 2).

Due to the amount of movements being passed, more resources became widely

available for battered women, including shelters to aid those facing abuse. By 1984, a bill

entitled the Family Violence Prevention Services Act was passed through Congress,

authorizing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to give grants to the states to

assist the expansion and growth of any services, programs, or projects created to aid those

facing family violence (Samaritan House, n.d.). By the time the 90s rolled around, system

reforms from the 80s expanded significantly, resulting in an increase in public awareness,

foundations, research, etc. thus resulting in a significant drop in domestic violence rates.

However, though the rates dropped significantly, domestic violence is still an

overpowering issue in even just our country. According to C. J. Newton (2001), in the

United States alone:

[i]t is estimated that 2 million to 4 millionwomen are assaulted by a domestic

partner every year. Twelve million women (25% of the female population) will be

abused in their lifetime [and] [u]p to 35% of women and 22% of men presenting to

the emergency department have experienced domestic violence. (p.15)


As you can see from the statistics in figure 1, the prevalence of domestic violence is still

an overpowering phenomenon in society and all we are left with is the question of why

this is continuing?

Figure 1: National domestic violence statistics (National Coalition

Against Domestic Violence, 2010, p. 4)

Why is this kind of violence occurring if we have so many resources for it? Well, as

coined by the author William Ryan, violence prevails due to a little term he kinds in using

referred to as victim blaming (1971).

Victim blaming is a common practice in society where we [blame] the person to

whom something was done, rather than to who did it (Katz, 2012, 4:22). In other words,

by victim blaming, the perpetrator of the violent action is completely removed from the

picture of domestic violence and focus is placed solely on the victim. In doing this, we

never really ask the questions that need to be answered, such as, why perpetrators are

acting out in this way, why violence is continuing, and what we can do to change it, thus

allowing violence to prevail.

So why do perpetrators of domestic violence behave the way they do?

There is a multitude of reasons perpetrators act out in the way they do. Though

researchers differ in what they believe may be the reasoning behind perpetrator violence,

it is widely agreed that society is one of the root causes. Due to societal norms and

longtime conditioning, perpetrators of domestic violence act out by harshly abusing their

partners (Daniels, 2010). From a young age, society instills violence in the minds of men

as a means to condition them to be protectors of not only their families and households,

but the nation as well (Daniels, 2010). When this conditioning enters society, that

violence then transfers throughout our communities whenever men are triggered to use it

including against their partners.

According to the research of author and consultant of domestic violence, Luke

Daniels, it has been found that patriarchal societies are another leading factor of violence.

Because patriarchism gives an overpowering control to men over women, men feel

compelled to control their partners and when they begin to lose that control, they act out.

And due to patriarchism being a societal norm for a multitude of countries today, and a

societal foundation for many other countries, the abuse doesnt seem out of norm for

many male perpetrators, [o]ften we learn from the people around us. If we see our

fathers, uncles and other role models abusing women on a regular basis, we come to think

of it as the norm, (Daniels, 2010, p. 10). And because we as humans do not like to think

of ourselves as being horribleif we do something that is horrible we instinctively try to

justify our actions, (Daniels, 2010, p. 10) usually, by blaming the victim of the situation

for creating their own abuse.

However, in the research of Rachel Taylor, a student of the Edith Cowan

University studying the professional perceptions of domestic violence, it was found that

yes, power and control issues were the leading explanation of domestic violence with a

90% majority of support from participants in the study, but patriarchism was an

inconsistent explanation with only a rate of 54% (2006, pp. 2-3). It was also shown in her

studies that stress and frustration was the third leading explanation for a perpetrators

violence, a point also made by Paul Crispell, a History and Criminology teacher from

Harmony School of Innovation, that I interviewed as part of my primary research for this

literature review. During our interview, Mr. Crispell used an analogy to describe how this

leading cause of domestic violence can cause a perpetrator to lash out, this is what he had

to say:

People carry around a bucket, and into their bucket they pour all the evil and the

filth in their life: somebody yells at them goes in the bucket, somebody flips em

off, whatever, somebody cuts in front of emand where does it go? It goes in

their bucket. And some people know enough to go seek someone out and say Im

having trouble with all this slop in my bucket, can you help me? and some people

dont know how to say Can you help me with this bucket that Ive got all this

evil stuff in it? and some of us are too proud to say Hey I could use a little help

with my bucket and so they dont know how to pour it out and they carry all this

anger and hatred.. and then someone bops em on the elbow or knocks em on the

shoulder and whats in the bucket slops out.

He explained that when whatever is in the bucket is knocked out, a person will typically

snap and whatever frustrations the person was holding back is then releasedusually

in the form of violence, even if that wasnt the intent of the individual.

Taylors research also found that [a] perpetrators socio economic status or the

degree of alcohol consumption [were] not found to be causal explanations of

domestically violent [behavior], (2006, p.2), they were more of just significant factors in

different cases of domestic violence. This however, was a very different finding than the

one made by the Center of Alcoholic Studies, which found that [i]n men and women,

alcohol problems in perpetrators and their partners contributed directly to physical abuse

and indirectly via psychological aggression,(2015, p.1). Because alcohol is a clouding

substance that doesnt allow a person to think in a clear and respective manner,

perpetrators would be more likely to abuse a partner without any recollection of the event

taking place. Without any recollection of the event, the perpetrator would then have no

memory of any specific reason for inflicting abuse on their partner, thus, making alcohol

a possible leading explanation for domestic violence and not simply a factor in the matter.

Because alcohol abuse is a direct cause of abuse, it can be assumed that alcoholism is one

of the many characteristics of domestic violence.

What are some characteristics that perpetrators of domestic violence might have

and why is it important to recognize them?


There are many characteristics of perpetrators of domestic violence. As mentioned

in the previous paragraph, alcoholism is one characteristic of a perpetrator. Many

perpetrators of domestic violence tend to act out in an abusive fashion when alcohol is

present in their system. Other common characteristics of perpetrators include denial or

minimization of the abuse they inflicted by play[ing] down or not fac[ing] up to

([compartmentalizes] and ignores) aspects of [their] abusive [behavior, minimizing] its

extent, frequency, seriousness, impact and consequences (Blacklock, 2001, p. 15). They

do this as a means to protect themselves from criticism and avoid feeling like a horrible

person for doing something they know was wrong.

When minimizing the situation, perpetrators tend to begin their account[s] of the

violence with phrases like It all happened a bit quick, I can't really remember or I

don't know what we were arguing about, (Blacklock, 2001, p. 19) in an attempt to

suppress the violence and keep word of it from reaching out to others. Perpetrators also

often normalize the abuse they are inflicting by attempting to lessen the significance of it.

They do this by saying that their inflictions of abuse werent actually abuse, but just mere

taps or tiny slaps to the arm or head.

According to Neil Blacklock (2001), it has also been found that perpetrators

blame their partners for their actions, saying that the victims were asking for it by

egging on the perpetrators when in reality it was just the perpetrator reacting to

something that triggered a response. They do this as a means of justifying their actions

and trying to make it seem that if the victim hadnt continued to egg them on, the

situation wouldnt have occurredeven if its not exactly true. But not only do they

blame their partners for their irrational actions, perpetrators also tend to blame the

occurrences on the stressful events of the day. Saying that if they hadnt had a particularly

stressful day at work, school, etc. the incident wouldnt have occurred.

By keeping an eye out for these sorts of characteristics, we gain an upper hand on

perpetrators of domestic violence. By knowing what characteristics a perpetrator might

have, we keep a close eye on the people around us and begin to track those that are

showing similar signs to those of perpetrators. If and when we do spot a potential

perpetrator, we can challenge them and help to stop them from acting out in such

inhumane manners and keep the situation from getting out of hand before it has a chance.

Why is it Important to View the Perspective of the Perpetrator?

For the same reason that its important to recognize the characteristics of a

domestic violence perpetrator, its important to view the perspective of the perpetrator: it

gives us an upper hand on the issue. In the words of Paul Crispell, my interviewee, he

states, you wanna understand what happened to them as a human being in order to stop

it from happening in the next generation (2017). The perspective of a perpetrator allows

us to put ourselves in the minds of perpetrators and understand where the abuse stems

from. When we understand the roots of the abuse, we can essentially stop future events

from taking place with that particular perpetrator and also start changing the way others

are thinking about similar situations by conditioning them in a different manner.

Questioning the reasoning behind the perpetrators and viewing things from their

perspective allows us to make connections and talk about how we can be

transformative, in other words, how can we do something differently? How can we


change the practices? (Katz, 2012, 6:50). And once we begin to ask those transformative

questions, we can slowly start to work towards making those changes.


In conclusion, this literary review has analyzed a multitude of resources and

answered various questions regarding perpetrators of domestic violence and their

perspective on the issue. The current situation continues to change over the course of time

due to the expanse of resources available and the everchanging norms in society. One can

only hope that with incoming research, more information about changes we can make to

end domestic violence will come our way and spread into our communities.


Blacklock, N. (2001). Domestic violence: working with perpetrators, the community and

its institutions. Retrieved from: html

Crispell, P. (2017). Personal interview.

Katz, J., (2012). Jackson Katz: Violence against women its a mens issue [Video file].

Retrieved from:


Newton, C. J. (2001). Domestic Violence: An Overview. Retrieved from:

Ramsaroop, S., (2010). Domestic violence from a mans point of view. Retrieved from:


Samaritan House. History of domestic violence. Retrieved from:

Striving to end domestic violence in our community since 1978. (2010). Retrieved from:

Stuart, G. L., Meehan, J. C., Moore, T. M., Morean, M., Hellmuth, J., & Fullansbee, K.

(2015). Examining a conceptual framework of intimate partner violence in men and

women arrested for domestic violence [Abstract]. Retrieved from:

Taylor, R. A. (2006). Professional Perceptions of Domestic Violence: The Relationship

between Causal Explanations and Views on Prevention and Intervention. Retrieved from: