The Myth of Mutual Battering

Whenever a statement is made that ‘mutual battering’ is taking place, the following questions must be asked about the relationship:

1)      Who has suffered the more extensive physical and/or emotional damage?

2)      Who has adapted their behaviour and lifestyle preferences to the greater extent to please the other?

3)      Who has superior social status and privilege by virtue of their gender, social class, race and culture?

4)      Who has superior physical strength and skills for effective assault?

5)      What is the history and pattern of abuse in this relationship?

6)      Which violent act is an act to instil terror and control, and which violent act is a response to terror and control?

(Freeman, J., BWSS, 1991)

Why Do Batterers Abuse Women?

Secondary or less important factors may include alcohol, stress, loss of control, poor anger management, mental illness, and an abusive childhood.

Primary factors:

  1. THEY CHOOSE TO. In the same way that they choose not to assault their boss when they are angry.
  2. IT WORKS. They get what they want (in the short-term) – release of tension, submissive behaviour from others.
  3. THEY GET AWAY WITH IT. If there are no negative consequences such as police arrest and charges, then the message is that violence is acceptable.
  4. ROLES AND HIERARCHIES. Traditional gender roles teach men to dominate and women to submit. Our society also supports hierarchies, with the belief that every group, family, or relationship should have one person in charge and it is acceptable for this authority figure to use force to ensure their power and control over other.

(Battered Women’s Support Services handout based on material from When Love Goes Wrong by Ann Jones and Susan Schecter, 1992 – Updated in 2013)