• advertisement

Our Mental Health Blogs

Anger Management Likely to Increase Domestic Abuse

Many people believe an abuser’s anger causes the abuse in a relationship. As a society, we tend to believe what we see; as a result, much emphasis falls on bruises, broken bones, and other physical signs of abuse. Then we tend to extrapolate from the evidence we can see to jump to the conclusion that the abuser must have been pretty darn angry in order to hit their partner.

After all, most rational people do not become physically aggressive unless they’re angered or afraid. Typically, the abuser’s victim is female, and as a male-dominated society, we tend to think “How could she frighten him?” Therefore, the abuser’s problem must be anger. It follows that an anger management program would benefit the abuser and end the victimization.

What people fail to realize is that an abusive person does not rationalize the way “normal” people do – their rules are different. And unlike “normal” people, an abuser’s anger does not cause them problems; an abuser’s anger is one of their tools. Evidence shows that abusive men who complete anger management programs do not stop abusing. They merely choose another tool to reach the same end. Gandolf and Russel wrote “...batterers readily reduce anger control to a set of gimmicks that enables them to get their way less violently while continuing their abuse.” *

This blog post relies on the work presented by Gandolf and Russel in their 1986 paper entitled “THE CASE AGAINST ANGER CONTROL FOR BATTERERS”, which I last accessed today, January 5, 2012, at The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.

Anger Control Classes Miss The Mark

Gandolf and Russel present the case that anger management techniques are of little value in therapies designed to end domestic abuse because:

  1. anger management techniques require the angry person to identify the source of their anger, then take steps to de-escalate the anger provoking situation. Batterers may wrongfully identify their victim as being “provoking” when, in fact, it is the abuser’s own frustration caused by his sense of losing control over the victim that pushes his buttons. [Note: during couples’ counseling, the counselor would then ask the victim how she could end her “provoking” actions – in essence, to stop being herself and become more like the abuser!]
  2. anger-managementanger control techniques to not take into consideration the “premeditated system of debilitating control” that occurs before the abuser shows his temper. Abusers weave a web of psychological torment around their victims before wrapping it up with  a scary show of abusive anger. The abuser’s anger is a tool, not a true emotion, brought out after psychologically abusing the victim to the point of deep, consuming fear.
  3. anger control techniques can cause an abuser to further withdraw into denial of responsibility for the abuse in the relationship. In order for real change to occur, the abuser must accept responsibility for abusing. The misuse of anger can become another “reason” why the abuser abuses, much like substance abuse or a rotten childhood. [Baby, please forgive me! You know I have an anger issue.]
  4. anger control techniques can be easily exercised and exhibited (especially for abusers who may have no “true” anger problem anyway) to the victim, further endangering the victim. The victim may be lulled into a false sense of security and return to the abuser who, at this point, expects some congratulatory behavior for learning some new parlor tricks. Unable to control the victim’s response, the abuser could turn violent quickly in an effort to re-exert the control he thinks he’s entitled to in the relationship.
  5. anger control techniques give judges and the community at large the sense that something is being done to end domestic violence. When the victim reappears in court showing no bruises or breaks, the judge can “believe their eyes” and decide the abuser has successfully met the conditions imposed on him. Case closed. Community leaders who refer batterers to anger management classes can believe they’ve done their part for the same “obvious” reasons. The false sense of security severely denies the existence of abuse without battery.
  6. anger control techniques do not force abusers to change the root cause for abuse, which is their unrelenting effort to control the thoughts, feelings and actions of another human being.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves as a society. Abusers are not like “normal” people. Although there is no mental disorder ascribed to chronically abusive people, do not make the mistake of believing an abuser’s thought process is the same as yours.

Anger management is not a cure for domestic violence or abuses of any kind. The paper I reference is this article was written in 1986. That is 26 years ago! When are we going to believe it?

[see also Is Anger Management BS? dated March 10, 2010]

9 thoughts on “Anger Management Likely to Increase Domestic Abuse”

  1. I see there is controlling issues on both sides and anger on both sides and violence on both sides. In a sexist society that blames men for everything (or white men), anger control classes for men only simply furthers the deep resentment. It soesn’t matter who gets assaulted or calls the cops it is the man who goes to jail and then gets ordered to anger control class. Now he has a prior history of assault and he will continue to be blamed. Meanwhile the woman goes to “victim” class and learns she can get away with anything. Why not continue to abuse him the cops are on my side! The guy thinks hey I’m going to jail no matter what so why not punch her?
    Now there are district attorneys who drop any charges against women and refuse to dropo charges on men. They are making it look like men are more violent.
    My point is this…stop making the problem worse and if anybody goes to anger control they both go and if any body goes to victim class they both go!!

  2. I am doing a dv course ATM and have realised how bad of a person I was to my former partner I really wish we could of done this together and seen the ways we were both treating each other I have and will keep reading your replys to learn more about my emotions and feelings that I have done to hurt the ones I love so keep up the good work and thankyou I am on the right path to fixing my problem

  3. Domestic abuse as phenomenon of manipulative and intrigued interpersonal relationship in family life exhibits great and perplex problem of social psychology, respectively psycho-social pathology. In this way, it is hard work to distinguish domestic abuse from domestic violence, that have very dangerous repercussions for global welfare to whole family social network. For me, domestic abuse is disguised form of domestic violence, that mean that abuser in masked and hidden form manifest its dysocial conduction toward weak members of its family. On the other hand, your six counter-balanced observation on Anger management techniques to domestic abuse incites intrigued and provocative solution. However they are smart contribute to this common psycho-social problem that damages the integrity and function of many family communities. Indeed, domestic abuse is complex and multidimensional problem that requires omnipotent and professional look-out. Among different approaches the technique to stop abuser to think for hours and hours on the set of manipulations to others indicates hopeful and promising way. I mean that abusers for hours think and compiling the plan of abusive behavior. So, the interruption of antisocial sketch will destroy their destructive daily activity in family milieu.

  4. Could you provide a response to these thoughts please? I still believe that anger and frustration are the dominant driving forces behind most domestic and family violence. Anger from being hurt as a child by those who supposedly loved them; anger from not getting the consistent love they needed; anger from feeling powerless to protect themselves, others and their pets from being harmed; and anger from failing to have some control over the chaos surrounding and impacting upon them.
    We are told by experts that anger that has not been dealt with or resolved gets internalised or directed at others. The result being childhood aggression, bullying, pet abuse, mental illness, substance abuse and later adolescent and intimate partner violence. These consequences are all too familiar to us.
    I fear that until such time as politicians, community leaders and anti-domestic violence organisations acknowledge negative childhood experiences as being the most likely underlying root cause of the domestic and family violence, very little will change. However, I am not denying that other actions, including the ones you have mentioned above also need to be taken.

    1. Anger could be the driving force behind all violence. To think that sending a person to anger management class will result in a reduction of anger is a mistake. Anger management doesn’t teach you how to get rid of the anger (that possibly drives abuse and violence). It only teaches you how to handle it better (reduce your stress and maybe have better interpersonal relationships).

      The problem is that many of these angry people are “blinded” by their anger. They cannot see that they are the ones who need help. That is very similar to many domestic violence perpetrators – they do not believe they have or are the problem.

      And then, there’s the question of how much crap one person has to take because another person had a bad childhood or anger issues? At some point, what is wrong with the abuser is not as important as what will happen to the victim should he or she choose to stay with the abuser. Life is too short to wait for someone to fix a personality problem when they don’t believe they have one.

      I don’t think society misunderstands the reasons for aggression and violence so much as once the damage is done, there’s little to do to force the person into treatment. Preventative measures for our children are the best way to go, in my opinion. Let’s not raise another generation of angry people.

  5. Someone I used to work with took classes as a result of his Domestic Violence charge. He STILL says the charge wasn’t really DV, and the while the classes seem to have made him better at communicating, they also taught him how to gauge his voice and be a better manipulator. His divorce is final now, but they still have a child, and he tries to manipulate his ex whenever he thinks he deserves an advantage (he is convinced that if she moves out of state, which she is trying to do, that she will legally have to pay for him to move there as well since he doesn’t have the means-she was the main breadwinner in their marriage).

  6. Does this apply to verbal abusers? Is anger management not the solution for them either? What do you suggest in the case of verbal only abuse?

  7. My solution or alternative to anger management for abusive people:

    Outside of the court sysem: If a person chooses to learn how to be non-abusive, then they could educate themselves with the literature in books websites to see HOW they are abusive. Identifying the behaviors is the first step. Then, commit to themselves to change those behaviors. Third, go to therapy individually with a counselor who will help them figure out how they became abusive, what the effects have been, and to unravel the years of bad training. The therapy will help the person to not only recognize their patterns but give them support as they change these innate qualities and create a better life. Therapy would also be helpful if the victims of the person decide they don’t trust the change and leave the relationship despite what the person is doing. When it’s all said and done, change is in the hands of the (former) abuser.

    For the courts: Judges must understand that anger management classes do not meet the needs of abusive people. Courts can order abusers to follow the type of system I outlined above because somewhere in the process, the abuser may decide to change even though the process is not his or her choice. That said, the main idea the courts must learn is that sending the abuser to some type of class or therapy does not make it safer for the abuser’s victims (adult or child). The court cannot look the other way because they’ve “helped” the abuser and s/he “completes” the order. Once an abuser is sentenced to a process of change, the court must involve social services (in the form of domestic violence counselors) on behalf of the victims. The victims often do not understand the intricacies of domestic violence. They may believe that completing the course of treatment will change their partner; there are no guarantees that it will. They need an education so they’re able to make an informed decision of whether to stay in or leave the relationship.

    There are details that I will probably think of later, but that’s the general outline of what I would do as an alternative to anger management.

    What would you do, Chris?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Follow Us

Subscribe to Blog

  • advertisement

in Verbal Abuse in Relationships Comments

Mental Health Newsletter

Sign up for the HealthyPlace mental health newsletter for latest news, articles, events.

Mental Health
Newsletter Subscribe Now!

Mental Health Newsletter

Sign up for the HealthyPlace mental health newsletter for latest news, articles, events.

Log in

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me