Why Does Someone Become an Abuser?

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As we continue our conversation about domestic violence, many might wonder how does a person become abusive and why.

Experts say an abuser can be anyone. Men. Women. Gay. Straight. Of any socio-economic or racial background.

But a common thread is that most might have grown up in an abusive home.

Victim advocates say whatever it is, however,  it's no excuse - they still choose to be an abuser physically, mentally or emotionally.

Larry Copelin is founder and executive director of H.I.T. No More.  "As a man, we say 'OK, well, I have a family, I had a dad, maybe and how good a dad was he and what did I learn from him, about being a husband'. In most of our cases, we learn little to nothing."

Copelin teaches classes for people involved in domestic violence incidents.  He says many abusers act on learned behavior, with most growing up in an abusive household.

"Now, as an adult, a relationship looks like a violent one to them unfortunately," says Brandi Bartel, executive director of the Victim Center in Springfield.

"It doesn't always mean that if you've been abusive as a child that you're going to be abusive," says Sunni Nutt, director of Harmony House, a domestic violence shelter in Springfield.  "It's more of correlation, not a causation."

The abuse often comes from someone who is insecure.

"We determined that the primary purpose for abuse is to have control over someone else," says Copelin.
It's a control that often masks deeper personal issues.

"The reasons for treating them that way is just fear and insecurity, fear of being alone, fear of losing control, fear of the loss of love."

But activists say that does not justify a person who chooses to hurt another.

"When I say things like this abuser grew up in an abusive household or this person drinks heavily and they are only abusive when they drink, I do feel like that's making excuses for that person," says Nutt.  "The bottom line is they are abusive."

The next step is for the abuser to take responsibility, Nutt believes.  "When they see that they are hurting their significant other, they need to take those steps to change."

H.I.T No More conducts a 12-week and a 26-week program for abusers. Copelin says about 25 men are enrolled in each, plus a total of 13 women.
A few attend voluntarily, but a large majority have been ordered by the courts.

Copelin says it's hard to track how successful their efforts are. But programs like these are a way of reaching abusers hoping to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders and more people becoming victims.

"If there isn't intervention, if there isn't treatment, that those individuals can access then it's very likely then it's very likely that they will go on with a different victim," Bartel notes.

See all of our special reports about domestic violence in the Ozarks here

More Stories

Trending Stories

Latest News

Video Center