Domestic Violence and Claims of Change: Is It Possible?

Chris brown is back in the news. I have written here previously about the domestic violence Rihanna experienced at the hands of Chris Brown, and what the reactions to this situation tell us about domestic violence in general.  Since then, Brown pled guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and 1,400 hours of community service (  More recently there have been a flurry of other events: a  leaked song (Changed Man, of all things!) possibly referring to the incident, an interview and a non-confessional confession on Larry King.  I have been struck by how much of the publicity is reminiscent of typical domestic violence perpetrator tactics.

False claims of change from domestic violence perpetrators are part of the cycle of violence and an attempt to maintain power and control over their victim. Minimizing and/or excusing the behavior, claims of not remembering the details, protestations of  love for the victim  are all standard responses after an incident of domestic violence.

Domestic violence tends to follow a predictable cycle. Older models talked about three distinct phases, calling the period after an incident of abuse the “honeymoon” to refer to the abuser’s attempt to seduce or woo the victim into continuing the relationship.  This has always seemed like an ill-fitting term to me,  given that the aftermath  of violence is anything but a happy, simple time for the victim!

More recent approaches to explaining the cycle describe it as follows:

DV cycle

First,  an incident of abuse occurs.  Remember, domestic violence is not always just physical.   In the aftermath of the abuse, the perpetrator may feel guilt but this usually takes the form of fear of reprisals.  Will there be social or legal sanctions? Will they lose power and control over their partner if the partner is able to leave?

The fear of reprisals leads to excuses: rationalizing, minimizing and victim blaming tactics. The key focus here is that some external force is responsible, not the abuser! Abusers may seek to excuse their behavior by citing substance abuse, work stress or their own history of childhood trauma. Most typically the victim is blamed in some version of  “You made me do it”.

Next the abuser seeks to maintain the relationship through any tactic possible.  They may act as if nothing happened. They may appear apologetic, remorseful and promise all sorts of things. “I have/I will change” being the most common. This period of seeming calm does not last long and as the relationship continues it may get shorter and shorter.

Despite what abusers may want us to believe, violence does not just erupt out of the blue. A period of tension building occurs in which the abuser is planning, contemplating and setting up the victim to justifying his next act of abuse. In ongoing domestic violence relationships the victim is often keenly aware of this feeling of mounting tension and impending attack.  The cycle has come full circle.

What are we to make of the claims of change abusers make during the phase of excusing and normalizing their behavior? Of course a partner wants to believe this! And they may be quick to understand and sympathize with the abusers substance abuse history, childhood trauma or work stress.  Unfortunately, understanding contributing factors alone is not enough.  And nothing excuses abusive behavior.

Can abusers change? How can you determine how genuine their  statements and promises  are?

As a therapist, I of course belief in the ability of people to change. What I also believe (and have seen over and over in my 20 plus years of experience) is that change, especially of deeply engrained complex patterns like domestic violence, requires time. Usually professional help is needed.  And first of all the genuine commitment and willingness to change.

While it does not excuse them of personal responsibility, it has been my experience  that abusers have often themselves been victims of childhood abuse or witnesses to abuse of loved ones. ( And no, not all who have been abused grow up to become abusers!) In fact, research indicates that the single common thing domestic violence perpetrators have in common is a prior history of trauma themselves.

Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D.  in this recent blog post at Psychology Today outlines the qualities of “confession” or apology that appear to be self serving rather than genuine.

Avoid details. The image of Brown pounding Rihanna with his fists and choking her are so horrible that Brown never described the beating he delivered his girlfriend. When Larry reviewed some of the details, Brown stared at the table. Most impressive of all, Brown claimed he couldn’t recall the beating.

Minimize. Although police reported previous beatings he had administered Rihanna, Brown said there were none.

Excuse. Brown referred (as before) to his and Rihanna’s youth, and described how people get angry in relationships but that he and Rihanna had never been taught ways to resolve conflict. (Brown was sitting next to his mom, who I guess he was accusing of not teaching him not to beat women.)

Share the blame. As in the above, make yourself part of a group – youthful men not taught better ways of coping – and gently blame your girlfriend as well.

Addictionize. By “addictionize,” I mean claim that you weren’t in your right mind or able to control yourself – Brown went so far as to say he blacked out.

Love, love, love. Always remember – refer to your loved ones. In this case the love object was also the victim, but Brown said he loves Rihanna and could conceivably spend his life with her.

Just saying “I’ve changed” does not make it so.  What would  genuine change look like?  What can you look for to determine if someone is embarking on this process? What does it take to make this sort of change?

-Accept personal responsibility for domestic violence.  Abusers who are changing would be able to own their behavior without excusing, minimizing or becoming defensive. Period.

-Working on one’s own history of trauma (not one or two sessions but sticking with it for as long as it takes) and other factors underlying abusive behavior.  Often the most effective treatment for domestic violence is group therapy, where  perpetrators learn to confront and hold each other accountable. Seeking treatment would not be externally motivated (for example by court order or to appease others).

-Demonstrate respect for the boundaries of others, even if that means agreeing to no contact with the partner you have abused.

How long does change take?  We therapist often caution that change takes time, but how much time? Of course everyone is different! But the expectation abusers seem to have, that they can be violent one day and claim change the next, are grossly unrealistic (or intended to be misleading).

In my experience, healing from childhood abuse and your own abusive behavior should be thought of as a multi-year process. In 12 step programs the newly sober are often advised to wait a year past the point of starting recovery before making any big decisions. Perhaps that would be  a good starting point here too.  Is an abuser claiming they have changed? To adopt more 12 step lingo, are they walking the talk? Wait and see if they continue therapy and display new adaptive, non-violent behavior for at least a year. The true test of genuine change is whether it is consistent over time.
Dr. Kathleen Young

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38 Responses to Domestic Violence and Claims of Change: Is It Possible?

  1. Svasti says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article. Its topical, which is great. But underlying the current news angle is the truth about abusive people.

    I was lucky – I had one night of domestic violence and pulled the plug. Of course, that didn’t stop me from having to deal with PTSD and depression, but it certainly kept me out of harm’s way in a practical sense.

    Its useful for me to see traits of serial abusers laid out like this. From talking to one of his ex partners, I discovered my abuser had a history of assault.

    The actions of an abuser post-assault are just a killer. Especially the minimise and professions of love!

    • Hi Svasti-

      Thanks for commenting! I am glad this was helpful to you!

      Yes indeed. All the “seduction” behaviors after the fact can be very difficult to deal with. It can seem like the abuser knows exactly what the victim longs to hear and provides it. It can be quite a “hook”. One of the many reasons abusive relationships can be so difficult to untangle from!

  2. sophia says:

    i want so badly to believe in change, but i dont know if i can, at the expense of continuing to be beat down/shut down/called names, etc. i dont know how i let this happen to me, but im hoping something in the article resonates with me for the positive.

    • sophia-

      I read a lot of pain and hopelessness in your comment. I am sorry for whatever has transpired to get you to this place!

      One hard reality about change is that we can only control our own (even though I know that often doesn’t seem true either).

      I haven’t written here about what the person on the receiving end of abuse goes through in the cycle, perhaps in another post. But one common theme is trying to change oneself in order to change the abusive partner or improve the relationship. It is a way of trying to control that which you cannot and can lead to even worse feelings about yourself.

      I hope you do indeed get something of use to you from this article (or similar ones I’ve written before).

      • Anonymous says:

        That part about the victim changing to try change there partners ways is so true…although my partner says now that i can go see my friends and go out i choose not to anymore because past experience with him i know what can happen if i do go out. So ive isolated myself.

        Change though i do sort of like to believe its possible althpugh i still get alot of abuse verbally the physical attacks have started to lessen….but this is where im lost, just because the physical atracks have slowed down does it mean hes changed or is changing or is it just his way to lead me into a false sense of security?

        its only been a year long relationship and his ex partner of 8 years warned me he will never change as she put up with it for 8 years on and off…

      • Maybe read what you wrote again and think about if you are really, freely, choosing to isolate yourself. I hope you will seek support and help from someone who understands the nature of the cycle of relationship abuse. Best wishes to you!

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  4. Amy Fitch says:

    WOW. What an amazing take on what, to many, has become a story suitable only for the Tabloids. Thank you for this educational post. Thank you.

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  8. La-La says:

    Thanks for this article. I just had to testify against my abuser in court and he is currently in jail. I thought dealing with the PTSD of abuse was tough- thinking of someone I cared about dealing with prison on account of me is tearing me to pieces! This article reminds me that while it wasn’t easy, I did the right thing. If he doesn’t want his life to be like this, its his choice to make.

    • La-La:

      I am so glad you found this article as you are going through this! I very much understand what a difficult step that is. I hope you have some support validating you; you ARE doing the right thing by protecting yourself and ending the cycle.

      Try to remember too that your abuser is dealing with prison because of his actions. He broke the law. He made that choice. You have every right to react to protect yourself.

      Best wishes to you for ongoing healing!

  9. tf says:

    good article. my abuser went to court-ordered counseling and “parenting” classes…MRT, not specific to the effects of D.V. on children, which I was disappointed with…this christmas, my abuser escalated to physically intimidating my 19 year old son who is in a cast with a broken leg, shoving a chair in the kitchen near my 70 year old mother and my children while they were enjoying a card game, throwing a lawn chair at me on the back porch, and then telling me “I want out of this marriage. I am so sick of you and your family” on Christmas Day! There seemed to be no apparent reason that I can see for this sudden violent change and all I can think is “WOW. What will he be like when his probation is over?” Do you know the likelihood of that? I’m thinking that it is pretty low since he can’t seem to behave even ON probation or in front of children and family members. Any thoughts?

    • tf-

      The scenario you describe is all too familiar to me from my years of running a DV program. Violence often escalates around the holidays and tends to continue once the pattern has begun. I would strongly encourage you to get DV victim services and therapy if you are not already. There are legal advocates that can help you with the ramifications of your abuser violating probation, etc.

      The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) is a good resource for seeking local services.

  10. Tanya says:

    I am so glad I read this. I was assulted 4 days ago and never have been before by my boyfriend of 1yr. He also assulted 3 policemen the same night. He said horrible things like “look what you have done now – do you want me arested.” He even went so far to tell the police I was crazy and I would hurt them. They soon found out who was crazy when he was putting up a fight and I was cooperating.

    4 days later he has displayed all signs of false remorse. He admited the more he thinks about it, the more he believes he did nothing wrong, he told everyone I was over reacting when I agreed an AVO would be the best option and he has recently begged me to drop the charges and AVO.

    This article is amazing. In my confused mind, and hope for change and happiness once again with him, I know that could never happen. There has been no geniune apology.

    He truely believes the way he acted was acceptable.

    Im so hurt. My bestfriend is now lost. Or what I thought was my best friend.

  11. Shananelle says:

    1 year 1 month and 2 weeks. The time it took me to change from shock and disbelief that the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, had changed into an abusive man, to knowing the full depth of the darkness he hid so well.
    30 years ago we were teenagers in love. 2 years ago after his divorce and moving back to our hometown we started spending time together. I knew from the start that whatever he wanted from the relationship would be what he got because he is that one man in the world who can talk me into just about anything. I am happy to be able to say it that way too….”JUST ABOUT anything” because that means that there were things that I did refuse to do on a moral basis. And I am proud of myself for that. I Did do things I never in my life imagined I would do… make him happy or to keep him from getting angry or even did something I never thought was right because it would be just enough to keep him from doing something worse.
    I heard about the ex-wife with mental problems….. who beat herself with a heavy shoe and claimed domestic battery, and his family corroborated this. I had met her once before they married and thought she was unstable myself, so I bought into that wholeheartedly. Then I heard of another incident and he explained it that she was not thinking well and endangering their children. Then there was the first wife, and the fact she was able to get the courts to stop him having any contact with his older children, and I found out that there was an incident where he was convicted of domestic violence against wife #1 and all his hunting rifles were taken by a Federal Marshall. That really got me to paying attention to facts, because by this time I had been assaulted once over money he said I had taken from his wallet…that he found 9 days later behind a cardboard piece he had not removed when he got the new wallet. I was thrown around into walls and doors and out of the house and into the iron railing of the porch. I lost my job when the doctor put me on restrictions due to my injured arm.
    Then came the next incident and another a couple months later. Then we were notified that wife #2 had lost custody of the younger children because she was claiming he was in their car with a gun and police thought she was unstable when they found nobody there but her children. With my credentials it should have been easy to get temporary custody of the kids….but with his history there was no way. I will never forget the first time I met the case worker…..she was talking to him, he was standing directly to her left, I was 4 foot in front of her and she caught my eyes and with the most compelling look kept my attention, never wavering her eyes from mine while she said to him: “But Mr. *****, you have to understand my position, the police force says it was the worst case of domestic violence they had ever seen.” She was warning me. And I knew it, but I could not get away or force myself to stay when I did.
    The courts ordered a Mental eval and a domestic violence eval, and I truly believe that if he could read better or understand what was in those papers he never would have let me see them……they were deeply disturbing…… lots of legal issues….rising from what they termed an inability to correlate actions/consequences. and a sense of entitlement. among other things. Also were cited a case of founded interfamilial contact with a 14 year old girl, and a founded case concerning a 10 yr old stepson.
    I read the papers, and kept my cool and started planning….I had the bags elsewhere the keys the important papers, all that…..I saved up some money. and the day I was ready to go he found my money, took my coat and my shoes and my medicine. I took the door off the shed to get into it and get a coat and shoes I had for our work that I used when we were painting. I looked like hell but I was out of there.
    He started calling and texting like nothing was wrong. He was running around with another woman doing drugs, and trying to lie to me about it all. I had a block put on my phone. Then a week later 2 days before my planned plane trip to a friends 900 miles away I go into a convenience store and he gets out of a vehicle and walks in and puts his arms around me and tilts my face up to his and kisses me…..and takes me back home. He knows all about my planned trip (a niece told him) tells me he doesn’t want to lose me forever, he signs up for domestic violence classes. 2 days later, I am supposed to go help my daughter with her remodeling, he throws a fit screaming at me that he knows I’m not planning to come back. He slams me across the room into the footboard of the bed…..his brother intervened and got me out of there but without my coat keys or cell phone…..(I couldn’t have those because I would have to come back for them) He even came to retrieve me, and was so mad that I had been gone 3 hours.
    The drugs were now out in the open so I’m seeing things and people who he previously hid. The tension is constant, and his behavior is getting even more erratic. Late one night he seems to be in a mellow mood and is trying to feed me a bite of his chocolate ice cream….and he demands to know why I am “being that way” I try to tell him that its because there is a drug dealer sleeping on our couch, and I am scared. and he tells me that one sentence I have heard so many times and hate so much……”shut your fucking mouth….not one more word or I’m going to knock the teeth outta your mouth” and I said NO you need to hear me My feelings are valid. and he smacked me in the jaw, and I’m not proud of what I did, but yet in some way I am…..but as he hit me I hit him back….I was in control enough that when his glasses came off I carefully set them aside while I looked for something to hit him with as he hit me over and over telling me I was just as stupid and crazy as wife #2. I didn’t knuckle under…which was the reaction he was wanting from me. And then he told me to get the hell out. But this time I was taking my things with me. He tried to bully me, and rush me and make me leave without things, and I back talked him, and I told him if you didn’t notice, tonight I stopped being afraid of you. I had 2 black eyes, my whole chest was bruised my arms and legs too.
    In the week that I’ve been hiding he has called my stepson several times a day asking for info on me. He drove to a town over 100 miles away and went up and down each street trying to find my car cause he knows I have a friend who used to live in that town. And he has tried to get the police involved in finding me for him by reporting the theft of our dog……she hides behind me when he raises his voice, and I was not going to leave here there with nobody to run interference for her she is a good pup and so smart. So if the police want to do something about me taking a dog that belonged to us as a couple, I can have them look into several other things I know about.
    In the meantime I am sleeping in the attic of a building, eating leftovers thrown out from a cafeteria. I have a twin mattress and lots of blankets and I managed to get an extension cord from the next building so I have a lamp and I can charge my cell phone and laptop, and I got the internet password for the network from the lady who is helping me with the electricity.
    I cry every day because I miss the good parts of him, and can’t understand how there can be 2 men in his head so different from each other. If he can be as nice as he was the first 7 months we were together this time why can’t he do it all the time? It’s simple he doesn’t want to. Looking at the women he has been involved with in his life…..I know them all, he targets women with a difficult relationship with their mothers .

    I own a house….I own a car…..I am a college grad. and here I am….. wow.
    But you know what…..I’m going to make it

  12. I strongly encourage you to seek domestic violence support services and counseling. The time after leaving can be a very dangerous one. See my comment above for the national hotline information.

    • kathy says:

      I am reading these comments and I am reliving so much of what i have been through in the past. Men terrify me. I can act as though I am fine but inside my heart is racing, my palms are sweating, and I find myself mentally planning for an ambush or attack. I wish I knew where to go. I am in a non abusive relationship at the moment, and I am safe. I feel safe. But I have to deal with my ex weekly because we have my son and he sees him one day each week. On days that my boyfriend has to work I have to go to these exchanges alone. He has raised his hand to me. One day I almost hope he hits me and leaves a mark, so that I can do something. Seek help. Protect my son. Until then I just try to sleep at night, I check my son for injury every time, and I hope that eventually I can face each day with hope instead of fear

  13. MissS says:

    I have just left my controlling husband who subjected me physically to domestic violence. I was particularly feeling vulnerable as he is now using “normal behaviour” to try and maintain our relationship. He is acting as if he didn’t attack me last week and is now saying that he realises now that he should have helped out more with the kids (we have 2 very young children). My intuition was telling me not to give in and so I google searched and came across this article. Reading this has provided me with another “lightbulb” moment. This is the cycle that I have experienced for years and the period of seeming calm has become shorter and shorter each time. I knew what I was in for this time and as guaranteed I got it. I’m reading back old emails and texts and its just awful seeing how he would use absolutely any and every means to attempt to control me and excuse his behaviours and put the blame on me. I never could say it before because he would swear black and blue that it was my fault or the work stress or whatever else he wanted to pass the buck to. But I can now – I was the VICTIM! and I will no longer be a victim, I will NEVER EVER GO BACK TO HIM. I have bookmarked this page and written it down in a book to remind myself when I am feeling weak that I am in fact a STRONG WOMAN who DESERVES BETTER!

  14. Missouri Gal says:

    I really dont want to say who I am because Im afraid it will be found and he or his relatives will know it is me. I was married 2 times before this is my 3rd Marriage, No2 marriage was 15 years of extreme verbal and some physical abuse. I miscarried when No2 threw me across the room because I dumped his beer out and I hit my side hard on a washer in the other room. I left finally he begged me back I would not go. I left and rented a place from My Now Husband who was my Landlord, He was shy kind of quite spoken and he helped me a lot moving in and setting up my computer stuff, I also spent weeks with him and his family sitting outside just talking. Needless to say I fell in love with him. We moved in together (which I dont really believe in) but money was tight and it took forever for the 2nd marriage divorce to go thru. 10 Months later I married him, He was fantastic and never heard a rasied voice or cross word from him untill about 8 months into the marriage. When he thru his first fit he litterally jumped up and down with his fist clenched like you would see a 2 year old do… I almost had to laugh because Id never seen a 6 ft 220 pound man do that before. The fits got worse from that point on. when I first met him he was diabetic type 2, then when all the Tantrums (Mantrums) LOL started he became Type 1 diabetic and had to start taking insulin twice daily, then it go to be 5 times daily. He just became extremely short tempered and would call me names that I told him my 2nd X husband would call me (the very ones I told him caused me to leave) Things like Pie hole, and Cunt. I would cry and he would make fun of me and mimick me… then after Id cry and things cool down he would say he was sorry. Then it got to be more and more often that he would do that…. He would call me every name in the book and I have had a heart attack during my divorce from my 2nd marriage and My Now 3rd Husband would yell things out like Die Bit–h Die and I would be crying so hard that I could not get my breath. My children seen this several times. Later on about the 2nd year I was married he became Physcial… It doesnt happen everytime but it seems to happen when I stand my ground and he tells me to shut up and I dont… or he turns theTV up really loud when Im trying to talk to him and I turn the tv off so becaues he on purposely turns it up so loud to block out what Im saying so I acutally turn the tv off and say we need to talk and if I dont get away from the tv when he says and turn it off instead he will come at me and knock me down. He did that once and when I was on the ground down.. he kicked me and left a huge bruise about the size of a grapefruit on my Butt. After its over he later apologizes… but when I try to say that I do not want him abusing me anymore… he gets all defensive and says hes not an abuser and then he will blow up again if I insist that what he is doing is abusive and he will say that I am the one that caused it or the devil is trying to destroy our realtionship. things like this have recurred about 5 or 6 other times (the physical abuse) The verbal abuse happens very often everytime he gets really mad at me and I stand my ground on something and dont back down… This last time was the worst it was a couple of months ago and It had something to do with he had been distant and I had said that we needed to talk and he was on the toilet and I heard him call me a f….king bi….ch So I pushed open the door and said that I heard that and when I did that he slammed the door about 8 times and then said that when he gets off that he is going to kill me…. so he got off the toilet and started after me and when he seen that I was already almost out the door he stopped to tear up my Bran new Computer that I use for my Business and started pulling out chords and it appeared that he was going to destroy my computer which he knows I have to have So I decided for once that Im not going to take him calling me names…. trying to come after me and say hes going to kill me and then turn around and start tearing up my stuff that is crucially important to me… my only means of income so I took a laptop connector thing that you set a laptop on and hit him on the shoulder trying to get him from destroying and pulling out all my wires from my computer and when I did… he threw me knocked me about 5 feet into a wall and proceeded to hit and push me untill I landed very hard on the ground and I acutally wet my pants… because of the way he had pushed me and how hard I hit… i dont know if he scarred the pee out of me or if it was because I landed so hard on the ground… Afterwards I was able to get up and I was feeling like IM so tired of you thinking you can push me and hit me and he is so much bigger than me that I just wanted to stand up for my own self once….Wrong thing to do…. I said something not very nice to him I called him a Molestor… cause for 3 years we went thru a court issue with his 2 step kids saying that he dry humpted them for several years… and my youngest daughter said that he had tried putting a mirror under the bathroom door which he of course denys it all… even to the point that I asked him if he would ever take a lie detector test and he said no because they are not right and they can be wrong. I guess what I said was pretty mean… but he has been calling me names for so long that I finally just had it and said that…. O my goodness I should of never said that… especially when i said it I was in the dining room and the only door was the bathroom and there was no way out…. Well he came at me like an ape seriously…. he started pounding me on the back of the head about 20 blows and I just kept trying to protect my head and back… I hurt so badly.. even after that was over and I was so hurt and mortified that he would come at me so brutally…. then he looked at me and said do you want more of that…. I just walked away crying profusly…. He then said it was all my fault and that If i ever said that again that he would not be held accountable for what he might do and that He doesnt care if he goes to prison or not…. I told him that maybe I should not of said that.. but at the time and for years he has called me horrible names… and I told him that is how I feel everytime he calls me things that I dont think I am…. he has even said that he should not even call me Bi…ch any more because thats too good of a name becaue even a dog will come back and wag there tail and be nice so im lower than a dog…..Trying to make a long story short. About a month after all that… he had been talking with his family… about some of the situations and he has them all convinced that Im this crazy person that causes him to do this stuff… You have to understand… no one except me and my kids would think he would do any of this… because he has that kind of look and Gently quite spoken nature that it seems unbelivable. I finally told my parents and sister about it and let them listen to a tape recording of him yelling and screaming at me and telling me to die bi….h Die and calling my 15 year old a whore and had her all upset… My entire family said that I need to get out… and his is telling him to get out…. of course his family cannot conceive that he would act this way and if he did …. I surely must be the problem for him to loose his temper. Here the other side of the coin… He goes to church, reads his bible, is in a life transformation Group (accountability program) and he is says he is sorry and that Satan is trying to destroy our marriage, He can be very kind, sweet, and thoughtful. We have a lot in common and we do a lot togther and enjoy church, camping and family get togethers, He even comes up to me and prays for me and for him and has done it many times with my kids and asked them for forgivness… I really believe that he wants to change but yet I never really see long periods of times between the namecalling and I know If I dont shut up when he tells me to…. he will either get so mad he will leave and stay gone for hours and not answer any phone calls… eventually come home and stomp up the stairs and this willl go on for days of him not talking or even a week or so…. or it will explode into namecallinng which usually always preceeds him before he leaves anyway… Help I dont know what direction to go. I just finally got accpeted for social security disability not even sure how much Im going to be getting yet and back pay for 2 years since disabled. Im 48 years old and have had a heart attack, fibromyalgia, torn rotor cup, busitis on one shoulder and arthertis on the other, recurring plantar fasceitis, and getting ready for foot surgery on the other foot. I dont look like I have all these issues because they are all on the inside of me… but since I have been married to him all of that has happened in the last 2 or 3 years with the exception of the heart attack… which was during my divorce but I was seein him also After I left my 2nd abusive husband. My 3rd husband makes all the money and all im going to have is my social securiy disablility…. Im not sure what to do….I came here because I put in the keywords do domestic abusers change? I would like to hear an experts opinion on my situation.

    • I am glad you found this blog and that you are reaching out for input and help. Input about individual situations is beyond the scope of what a blog can do for you though. I have written about what I think the conditions necessary for change are in general.

      I would strongly encourage you to get in touch with a local therapist who understand domestic violence or a local domestic violence agency, You can get information about those resources from the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

      I very much hope you keep going until you get the help you need!

  15. I have been with my kids fathers for 7 years 6 of those years he was in jail. Next year sometime in March or September he is to be released. I stood by him the whole time he was there. Before he was placed in jail he was very violent towards me on a daily basis , even up until now he was off and on violent with me being locked up sending treating emails, listening to his friends, if i dont answer the phone on time if i dont send pictures are money its been a rollercoaster but hes claiming to have changed i want so bad to believe him but my gut is just saying no. is there any advice u can give me that would truly help me are some questions to ask him before his due date home is here. thanks and i respect your opion

    • Hi latesha-

      I am so glad you are reading and thinking about what to do next. Personal advice/opinions are beyond the scope of what I can do on a blog. I strongly urge you to talk to a domestic violence aware therapist. The resources in my comment above are a good place to start looking for help in your area.

      I wish you safety and healing.

  16. beedle says:

    Great information. My girlfriend was a victim of domestic abuse 25 years ago. At that time, getting out was the goal. In the end no, charges were brought against the abuser. Would it be safe to say, that without counseling, this person has found other victims? His focus goes to the next “target” in his life. I am not sure what could break the pattern.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    What an amazing article.

    Thank you fot using Chris/Rhianna for an example.
    Intersting to say the least. Being a survivor from more than 1 man, i can now see the real picture.

  18. ndjamila says:

    for 4 years and a half i was in an abusive relationship in which the dude in question has displayed all the right traits of an abuser. untill last sunday we had been apart for 7 months. he shows up at my door claiming that he wanted his family back…i dont know why i let him in! yet not once did i hear”from his mouth ” i am sorrý, i was wrong, i contributed so much for what had happened between us”…nada!
    my reply was that i needed proof that the had changed and he realy wanted his family back…and on wednesday for the 3rd time we literaly nearly killed each other before my boy’s eyes who was extremely distressed and crying. he pushed me to the limits as i refused to hear his demeaning coments and insults, swore at a friend as i as asking for police’s number, took my phone away and searched it until things got out of control and i was about to stab him with a screw driver. had my boy not find a away to get to me, he’d see his father strungle me.
    i dont know what happened but i guess God had a plan because it seems that my ex came to his senses and started screaming and crying uncontrollably…i just dont know what happened…
    throughout the relationship not once did i give him reasons to doubt me. i was always very open about my friends, family everything but he on the other hand always hid me away from is friends, never left the phone exposed…always avery secretive. i never understood why he’d demand things of me which according to him did not apply to him because he was a man.’
    i hope that after reading this info for the 3rd time i clean up my act and never ever reconsider reconciliation with this man for my child’s sake…

  19. Brenda Diaz says:

    I’m now seeing how an abuser operates. I thank God and all of the writers and therapists that have opened my eyes. I am now divorcing my husband which psychologically has abused me for a little more than a year. I’ve showed him that I’m not afraid, but he has really tormented me to the point where I just said enough! Thatnks for this amazing article.

  20. Freckles says:

    Thank you for your post. Years later it is helping others. I finally got the courage to leave a verbally abusive relationship. It took seperating for almost a year and seeing no change to finally cut the cord. He calls everyday and leaves messages on my cell and work phone, emails me, texts me. Very appologetic, telling me everything I want to hear and finally doing all the things a man should be doing for his family. He is even claiming to be going to a therapist to get help. It’s been hard for me to maintain my no contact and no communication.

    I have realized that there is a cylce of abuse that takes place with abusers. I agree that if he can stick with it for at least a year I might consider a reconciliation. However, I am not going to move forward expecting it. I am just going to continue on with my life and be an observer. Regarless, he needs to make changes for himself and his son. I don’t need to be convinced through words and promises, he needs to do what he says he is going to do and that is going to take time. Change is something that he needs to do regardless. I have two boys of my own (not his children) from my previous marriage that I need to raise. Them seeing my being abused had a negative impact on them and I had to stop making excuses for my abuser and make changes in my life for the better interest of me and my children.

    • Thank you for sharing this, it may be an inspiration to others. We need to hear that there is the possibility of life after abuse, life free from abuse. You did an amazing thing for yourself AND your children by leaving.

  21. tabi says:

    My husband went to prison for dv for 3 years did every program in there admitted his wrongs an within 3 months of getting out he started drugs n alcohol an abuse began,within 9 months he almost killed me an is doing 90 months,he promises me he’ll change an if i Waite for him ill c an get the good him,which i never really have had,an if i dont waite ill miss out,do i stay?will he change?any advise please..

  22. Joan says:

    I met someone and started dating her long distance for a few months. Probably my second visit to her town we went out to celebrate for my birthday and she lost control of herself at a bar. She became aggressive toward another person and myself for just making conversation. Because she was in his face threatening him we were asked to leave. She then drove us home speeding and swerving off the road purposely trying to scare me. As we made it back to her house the rampage continued for a while before she finally cornered me in a bathroom threatening to fight. I pushed her off of me to get away and that’s when she attacked me from behind and we fell to the floor. I ended up calling the PD outside of her apartment while I waited with a very painful broken finger. After this, I accepted her semi-apology and allowed her to help w/ medical expenses. To make a long story short, I didn’t find any background violence so I gave her another chance. She came at me two more times like this, following me, grabbing me, so I severed ties with her recently asking her to seek therapy. She only had this behavior when she was drunk, but she is not a serious or heavy drinker. Only if she has gone over the limit, does this bully come out in her. She refuses to let me in on her past exes but claims there was no abuse. I have come to know this person a little over a year now and don’t think she can acknowledge her violence. She has made excuses for her behavior saying it’s due to her grandmother’s death. She even believes that’s why she needs to seek therapy. If confronted about her violence she gets extremely defensive. Doesn’t believe to be “that” violent of a person. I would rather not wait around to see what’s going to be behind door number two. If a person can grab…. they can push, hit, or even stab. And if a person is after help or change they will need to acknowledge they have a problem first and I don’t think she’s capable. It should come easy to apologize and be accountable if the person is sorry and seeking change. I would like to be able to try and stay w/ her and support her through therapy but how am I to know she is really going for her actions or to cope with grieving a death in the family. That will take time and it’s a dangerous situation for me. I haven’t seen a therapist and not sure if I need to for this.
    At this point I have moved on. I have a huge scar on my hand but a lesson learned about DV.

  23. Confused says:

    Thank you for this article. Im currently struggling to deal with the aftermath of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship which for the first time in my life saw me turn to the police for help. My partner was controlling and belittling and appeared to see me as only there to serve his every whim. I got out of our house with my, (not his) kids and his behaviour escalated to stalking, hacked into my phone and was filing me. He refused to engage in any plan for how we separate and did not appear to care at all that myself and my children had nowhere to live due to his behaviour. This is only the short version of events. I ended up going to court and having the trauma of putting in writing why I didn’t feel safe around him. He had become someone else entirely. He has since, on his own sought professional help. He has admitted to a few, although not all friends that I was not lying, that I did in fact have good reason to need away from him. He says he wasn’t well, he’d loss touch with reality which to some extent I believe but on the other hand I think it’s too easy to claim an illness and therefore not take responsibility. He does take responsibility to some extent, and after some months is still seeing a clinical psychologist as he says he does not want to repeat the same mistakes with his behaviour. I too am seeing a counsellor to deal with the fallout of what I was put through and shy I allowed it to happen. I definitely have identified learned behaviours from my coping with an emotionally abusive and controlling mother that allowed for a perfect storm. I’m now in the position where I still love him and want to believe he is serious about change, he appears serious and I’m noticing definite changes in his behaviour. He is doing all he can really and is giving me the time I need, I’ve told him it will be many months, probably a year of consistent change and stability before I could consider working towards having him back in our home. My mother though, who I had to turn to for help has “disowned” me for “breathing the same air as him”. My sister has turned seriously horrible and offensive because I have said I need to make decisions about my life myself, not because they tell me I have to do something….first time in my life I have done so. My friends are genuinely concerned as they saw me brought to my knees by him and while they would not turn their backs on me they do not approve of me seeing him again or considering working on our problems. I want to move forward and sensibly and calmly make choices that I’m happy with, not because I fear losing my family and friends but nobody seems able to accept that and all are concerned with telling me how to think and feel. It’s so hard. Trying to find examples of people who have made it work and how but there’s not a lot out there. Everything seems to condemn the abuser for life and to condemn the survivor for ever trying to make it work. Surely it’s not that simple?

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