1. May I be the abuser and you be the well meaning bystander?

Without meaning to we have said “yes” to this ludicrous question offenders ask us. Our answers has put us in an unspoken agreement to stand by rather than stand up. We mean well when we blame abuse on external factors such as the economy, drugs, or unemployment. We mean well when we believe abuse isn’t happening to anyone we know. We mean well when we cling to what we think is true rather than what is true. Yet meaning well isn’t stopping abusers from hurting and even killing people in our neighborhoods. So, lets not just mean well, lets do well so more of us can be well. Our new message to offenders is “We will not say yes to your ludicrous questions! We will not be your unwitting accomplices. We will no longer stand by. Instead, we will stand up against your abuse. It’s not okay anymore!”

2. Will you believe that if I’m not hitting her I’m not abusing her?

There are many kinds of abuse and abusers. There is physical abuse as well as emotional, sexual, psychological, spiritual, and social abuse. Abusers and victims come from all races, ages, genders, sexualities, and economic levels. We tend to minimize abuse that isn’t physical, but other types of abuse leave lasting marks too – often more lasting.

3. Will you believe when I abuse her I’m not abusing you too?

Abuse affects us all. At home, abuse keeps families on edge, makes them unsafe in their own homes, and disrupts development of all key physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benchmarks. In the workplace, abuse lowers performance, causes absenteeism, ends careers, and endangers coworkers. In the community, abuse endangers neighborhoods, lowers morale, jams social services, lowers academic, career and athletic performance, and creates a sense of helplessness.

4. Will you blame my abuse on something other than my need for power and control?

Abuse is about power and control and choice. Abusers have a neediness to exert power over another. Abusers perfect ways to control us ind their circumstances. Abuse is a choice and is not about things like anger, love, poverty, concern, substance abuse, circumstances or sadness.

5. Will you believe my abuse is random?

Abuse follows a pattern. Abusers adopt an individual pattern of abuse that cleverly sets up their victims for the next abusive incident. This pattern usually includes these steps: Abuse, excuses, promises, normalcy, set-up, abuse. Awareness of this pattern is the first step in a victim’s- and a community’s empowerment to end the offender’s reign of terror.

6. Will you expect my victim to “just get over it”?

Healing from abuse is a process. Abusers dismantle a victim’s personality and erode away hope for a different way of being. A victim’s focus is on surviving physically and emotionally, putting the brain and body on alert, and compromising the ability to think and function at a higher level.Restoring one’s hope, belief, and sense of safety takes time and patience.

7. Will you judge and ridicule my victim for staying with me?

Leaving an abuser can be complicated. Abusers make it frightening and dangerous for victim’s to confront them and leave. Victims usually stay to keep the family together, to provide food and shelter for the children, and to give the person they love another chance to stop abusing. The question for us to ask is not why she stays, but why he abuses her.

8. Will you explain away the sign that I am abusing my victim?

Abuse leaves signs. Victims worry that discovery of their abuse will make it worse (because it often will). Some signs of abuse include: Marks and injuries, fearfulness, absenteeism,  loss of interest in activities, stepping away from friends and family, change in personality, hyper accountability about time, money and whereabouts, and a gradual drop in self esteem. Signs that someone may be an abuser are: hints about jealousy, possessiveness and temper, ridicule in the name of fun.

9. May I use your convictions to escape a conviction?

Certain beliefs can encourage abuse. Some religious interpretations and beliefs can encourage the power and/or superiority of one over another. Family beliefs about race, sexuality, parenting, and male/female roles can open the door to abuse. These cultural beliefs can make it more difficult to recognize abuse and for jurors to convict offenders.

10. May I hurt people and get away with it?

We can hold abusers accountable. Domestic and sexual violence is a crime. Abusers will not stop their abusive behavior until they are held accountable for their actions.

11. Will you believe alcohol or drugs or anger or the poor economy cause me to abuse?

Abuse is a choice. If it were about alcohol or drugs, why does and abuser go home from the bar, shut the door, then abuse their partner behind closed doors? Alcohol or drugs just “gives them permission” to abuse. During a poor economy, it is not that the abuser is unemployed that causes him to abuse, it it because he is home more and has more access to his victim.

12. Will you believe if the kids aren’t in the room they don’t know what is happening?

Victims of abuse are always “walking on eggshells”, which impact their ability to be a parent. Children are aware of what is happening in their home, whether they see the abuse or not. They see all the other abusive behaviors that are not so ap[parent – the domination, the fact that their mother doesn’t have a voice in the home, the humiliation, and the power dynamics. Children learn very quickly who they need to please or what will happen to them if they don’t comply.

13. Will you misinterpret my jealousy as charming?

Jealousy is a sign of possession and having power over another person. Some feelings of jealousy are normal, but when you use it as an excuse to control another person, it becomes abusive.

14. May I cause my victim to be distracted and absent from the work you pay her to do?

Part of the tactics and abuser uses to gain complete control over their victim is to sabotage their ability to get or keep a job. They show up at, call several times during the day, take her to and pick her up from work. They keep her up all night yelling at her so she is tired and can’t do her job well the next day. They accuse her of having and affair with her boss and make her quit. They sabotage her transportation or refuse to let her use “his” car to get to work. They promise to watch the children and then bail out at the last minute.

15. Will you believe I isolate my victim because I love her?

Part of gaining control over their victim is to isolate her from family and friends. They do this slowly, beginning with statements like”If you really loved me, you wouldn’t need your friends, I only need you, why do you need them?” Then they make is so difficult for the victim to spend time with her friends that she believes it is her own decision to not hang out with them. They tell their victim that their family is “interfering in our business” or “trying to break us up” if they try to tell the victim she is in a bad relationship or try to point out abusive behaviors.

16. Will you underestimate my power to manipulate you?

Abusers are generally very charming and appear to be well respected, nice people. It is part of the tactics they set in place well ahead of time so their victim will not be believed. They only abuse behind closed doors so others will not believe the victim when she discloses abuse.

17. Will you hope I stop abusing instead of forcing me to?

Abusive people cannot change their behavior unless they change the way they view others. They have a sense of entitlement; they believe they have a right to abuse their partner , their children and can do anything to their “property”. Abuser often don’t believe they are doing anything wrong when they hit their partner. If they don’t believe their behavior is wrong,  and it gets them what they want, why would they want to change?

18. May I scare you out of reporting me?

Abusers use the tactic of intimidation to get what they want. They don’t want to have any consequences for their actions. Generally, abusers only target their intimate partner and children.

19. May I teach my son to disrespect and hurt women?

When boys witness abusive behaviors, whether physical or not, they learn that women’s feelings and opinions don’t matter. Sons of batterers have dramatically elevated rates of domestic violence perpetration when they reach adulthood.

20. May I teach my daughter to be a victim?

Daughters of batterers find it more difficult than other women to seek assistance if they are abused.

21. Will you believe my victim’s change of mind means I didn’t abuse her?

Many times the abuser will threaten to kill another family member if she testifies against him or he has her convinced that it was a mistake and that he will never do it again.

22. Will you believe I am too nice to be an abuser?

Abusers appear to be good parents, attending their children’s parent teacher conferences. This is to ensure their children don’t talk about the abuse at home. All abusers have nice periods. It is not how nice they are, it is how non-coercive and how respectful they choose to be that matters. Being nice is how they fool others and how they keep their victim in the relationship. The victim lives for those “nice” times.

23. Will you believe if you can’t see the abuse it didn’t happen?

Physical abuse is just part of domestic violence. Batterers plan their abuse, targeting areas on the body that are covered with clothing of hair. Or they make sure they don’t leave bruises. The lasting effects of emotional abuse- including insults, humiliation, financial, spiritual and sexual abuse are more damaging than the physical abuse.

24. Will you believe that my victim deserves the abuse or secretly like it?

Victims of abuse love their partners; they just want the abuse to stop. Survivors believe when they are told by someone who says they love them that they won’t abuse them again. Everyone has hope for a better future. Victims of abuse hang on to that hope and often feel that there is nowhere else they can turn. They hope things will get better. No one deserves to be abused, no matter what they say or do. Abuse is not a reaction to what someone says or does, it is a pattern of tactics designed to have complete power and control over another person. It doesn’t matter what a victim does or doesn’t do, the abuse will happen anyway. Most victims do everything they can to keep from being abused, and they are still abused.

25.  Will you ignore the cries of my abused victim?

When we all say it is not okay for one person to abuse another, then we can begin to stop abuse. If someone asks you for help, do what you can do to help her. Find out where the local domestic violence agencies are in your community and find out what they do. The most important thing you can say to a victim is “I believe you”.

26. Will you permit me to gradually dismantle my victims personality?

Part of gaining control over the victim is to break down the victim’s sense of self. The purpose is to gain complete dependence on him so she feels she can’t make it on her own. If a victim has just one other person in her life who is there to support and listen, the chances of her getting to safety greatly increases.

27. Will you agree with me that my partner is crazy?

One of the tactics that an abuser uses is to do things to make the victim feel that she is crazy. The abuser pretends to lie when he is telling the truth and pretends to tell the truth when lying. The batterer tells the victim that the abuse never happened.

28. Will you believe my victim made up the allegations of child abuse that first comes up at the trial just  to get back at her ex?

After children of abusers are away from the abusive person, then they may disclose acts of abuse or sexual abuse. They don’t feel safe enough to disclose abuse while still in the home with the abuser. Children see that  the victim doesn’t talk about the abuse so they don’t talk about it either. Once they see that it’s okay, and they are safe, they feel free to disclose.

29. Will you turn your back on the victim because she goes back to an abusive relationship?

Victims of abuse leave an average of 7 times before they finally stay away. Some stay away after the first attempt at leaving, some stay away after the twenty-first attempt. Each time they leave they learn more ways to stay safe and they get stronger. Remember, it is not always the safest choice to leave an abusive relationship. Often it is the most dangerous thing they can do.

30. Will you believe I am more powerful than all of you?

We can prevent and end intimate partner violence. Abusers will stop exerting power and control over victims and our community when we make it intolerable for them to do so. We can rally on behalf of victims and our own peace and safety to hold offenders accountable.