Some 16 years ago, Lundy Bancroft gave names to the faces of different abusers; names which still resonate with survivors trapped in the cycle of abuse or those who have escaped and are beginning to sort through what happened.
Bancroft spent nearly three decades studying and writing about abuse, trauma and recovery. He advocates for the safety of abused women and children, serving as a custody evaluator, child abuse investigator and expert witness. He’s written five books on abuse, after having worked with more than 1,000 abusive men in his counselling groups, attempting to understand abusers’ strategies and tactics and how they keep women trapped in a cycle of violence.
According to Bancroft, most abusers fit into one of the following 10 'types' although most abusers show traits of several 'types'.
Does an abuser you know fit one of these categories?
- The Demand Man
is highly entitled and becomes enraged if he isn’t catered to or if he is inconvenienced in any way. The partner of this man feels like nothing she does is ever good enough. He criticizes her frequently. When he doesn’t get what he feels he is due, he punishes his partner. He becomes furious if anything is demanded of him.
- Mr Right
believes he is the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun. He brushes aside a partner’s opinions and finds little value in her thoughts or insights. He is constantly teaching his partner, often with condescension in his voice. His control is focused on telling his partner how to think. When she disagrees, he becomes even more arrogant, escalating to insults, canceling plans, leaving dinner, talking bad about his partner to others, possibly becoming physically violent.
- The Water Torturer
assaults his partner psychologically without ever raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, often with a superior or contemptuous grin on his face, smug and self-assured. The impact of this is that his partner can end up being the one frustrated and yelling, at which time he’ll say, “See, you’re the abusive one, not me.” The partner begins to blame herself for everything and may begin to think something is psychologically wrong with her. Physical abuse make take the form of slaps “for your own good” rather than explosive rage.
- The Drill Sergeant
takes controlling behaviour to an extreme level, running his partner’s life in every way that he can, from dictating whether or not she can leave the house to what she can wear, even demanding the children report her activities to him. He is often fanatically jealous, verbally assaultive, and almost sure to be physically violent in order to get his partner to submit to his control. This is one of the most dangerous abusers to both live with and leave.
- Mr Sensitive
appears to be soft-spoken, gentle and supportive, presenting himself as an ally to women, and using a lot of “psychobabble” from self-help books to support his beliefs. This is a façade he is wrapping himself in to cover up the abuse, which the partner is likely to blame herself for when it begins. He will blame his partner for anything he is dissatisfied by in life, insinuate she is hurting his feelings constantly, and will start to exhibit a mean side that no one ever sees but his partner. Mr. Sensitive has the potential to turn physically frightening, but speaks of his violence as “anger” not “abuse” and will blame it on you.
- The Player
is often good-looking and sexy (but sometimes he just thinks he is). He may be hyper-focused on sex and spending as much time as possible in bed during the beginning of the relationship. After a while, his interest seems to wane and he is caught flirting with or even sleeping with other women. Most of his satisfaction comes from exploiting women. Besides chronic infidelity, he can be verbally abusive and intimidating when his advances aren’t reciprocated, or when he is called out on his behaviour. He often claims he suffers from “sex addiction,” though he is only addicted to using women.
tends to be particularly aggressive with everyone not just his partner. He gets a thrill from intimidating others. He has an exaggerated, stereotypical view of what a man is supposed to be, and sees women as inferior. He has little patience for weakness or indecision. He may start by making women feel safe and protected, but it is only a matter of time before he turns on his partner, using violence to “keep her in line.”
- The Victim
has had a hard and unfair life. He is constantly misunderstood. He tells heart-rendering stories, often about how he was abused by his former partner, manoeuvring a woman into hating his ex-partner and may succeed in enlisting her in harassing his ex. (There are tips in the book that explain how to know if your partner really was abused previously.) The Victim is highly self-centred in relationships. If you stand up to him, you are abusing him as well. He can feel justified in mistreating his partner because he feels you are doing the same to him. He takes no responsibility for his actions.
- The Terrorist
is highly controlling and extremely demanding, but his worst aspect is that he frequently reminds his partner that he could kill her at any time. This can be like a type of psychological torture, and he may never be physically violent toward her. He may use threats toward the children to terrorise his partner. There is often strange veiled statements (“You have six months left”) or bizarre, sadistic behaviours. He is likely to have been severely abused as a child, but the psychological issues are so deep you cannot help him heal.His goal is to paralyse his partner with fear so that she won’t dare leave him. When she does, he may stalk or threaten her for a long time.
- The Mentally Ill or Addicted Abuser
doesn't so much form a separate category, writes Bancroft, but any of the abusers mentioned above can have psychiatric or substance abuse problems. What is important to remember, though, is that this is not the cause of the abuse but it can contribute to the severity of the abuse. Certain mental illnesses can increase the chance an abuser will be dangerous and use physical violence. An abuser who goes off medication is unpredictable. Those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder have a highly distorted self-image. Many abusers who are mentally ill want women to know they are in order to avoid responsibility for their attitudes and behaviour.
This article is adapted from here