Help for Abusive Partners

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”     – Steve Maraboli


While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so.

A lot of the causal factors behind abusive behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege, which can be hard to change. But change is possible — and reaching out for help is a great first step.

One part of changing may involve an abusive partner willingly attending a certified batterer intervention program that focuses on behavior, reflection and accountability. Experts don’t recommend couples counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs or mental health treatments for abusers to learn about and deal with their abusive patterns (although oftentimes these can helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program).

  • Are You Hurting Your Partner?

    Have you ever thought that you may be behaving in a way that could be physically or mentally harmful to your partner? These behaviors are often difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them — but acknowledging that you may be hurting your partner is the first step in moving toward a healthier relationship.

    Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?

    Do you…

    • Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
    • Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
    • Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
    • Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
    • Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
    • Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
    • Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
    • Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
    • Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
    • Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
    • Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
    • Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?

    How does your partner react?

    Do they…

    • Seem nervous around you?
    • Seem afraid of you?
    • Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
    • Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
    • Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
    • Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?

    If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to.

    By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them.

    According to author Lundy Bancroft, the following are some changes that could indicate you’re making progress in your recovery:

    • Admitting fully to what you have done
    • Stopping excuses and blaming
    • Making amends
    • Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
    • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior used
    • Identifying the attitudes that drive  abuse
    • Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a decades-long process and not declaring yourself “cured”
    • Not demanding credit for improvements you’ve made
    • Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal)
    • Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
    • Carrying your weight and sharing power
    • Changing how you respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
    • Changing how you act in heated conflicts
    • Accepting the consequences of actions (including not feeling sorry for yourself about the consequences, and not blaming your partner or children for them)

    Learn more about Lundy Bancroft here and check out some of his helpful books, including Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.

    As Bancroft notes, truly overcoming abusiveness can be an ongoing, often lifelong process — but change is possible. Acknowledging that your behaviors might be unhealthy or abusive is a great first step in beginning to change. It’s never too late to seek help.



Category: Center News · Tags:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Norfolk and O’Neill offices are raising awareness this October about Domestic Violence! Check out the downtown areas and keep and eye out for the purple ribbons and signs! Want to participate? Send us your photos or tag us on facebook! Stay tuned as we add more!

Category: Center News · Tags:


No crime seems to cause as much of a controversial reaction as a rape case. Unlike other crimes, it seems like the knee jerk reaction is to accuse the victim of lying. “Crying rape,” which refers to women allegedly falsifying a rape charge, is a term commonly tossed around. Victims of any other crime, attempted murder, kidnapping, arson, burglary etc., aren’t met with this mouth-frothing suspicion and rage, so why rape victims?

The sentiment of disbelief toward rape victims has been around for hundreds of years, but has risen to a fever pitch in recent years. Just look at the vicious skepticism any victim in a high-profile case received, from the Steubenville case to Woody Allen’s daughter. Over fifty women in the past ten years have come forward with the same story of rape or sexual assault at the hands of Bill Cosby, yet the public continued to ignore them until Cosby himself finally admitted it.

A growing concern is that men need to be worried about false accusations. Paranoia about widespread fake rape charges is not limited to men’s rights activists (MRA) fringe groups bored with sending death threats, but is actually quite common within the general public. A 2011 study shows that 40.2 percent of the surveyed felt rape accusations were often false. The unmerited suspicion of false charges unfairly clouds judgment within law enforcement, legal systems and the public eye. The reality is that false rape charges account for a very small percentage of all rape charges, and that number itself is often considered unreliable due to bias.

Let’s Look at the Numbers

Despite the idea that falsified rape charges are prevalent, there is very little statistical evidence to support the claim of common fraudulent accusations.

Getting straightforward evidence pointing toward a single number is difficult. Given that many of the studies done on false rapes have employed subjective research methods or failed to base data off of actual investigations, finding accurate numbers includes wading through the outliers.

However, compiling the methodically sound, credible sources suggests that percentages of false estimates converge around the 2-8 percent mark, worldwide. The “Making A Difference Project” conducted a large-scale study, lauded for its precautions taken to protect the validity and reliability of its research, and found 7 percent of the 2,059 cases evaluated to be false. The most vigorous and largest study, done by the British Home Office and spanning 2,643 cases, found 2.5 percent of cases to be false.  Researchers at the University of Massachusetts say 5.6 percent. An Australian study released in 2006 recorded a 2.1 percent false reporting rate. In 2007, an EVAWI project reported 6.8 percent.

A few studies, on the other hand, present staggeringly high numbers. For example, Professor Eugene Kanin’s 1994 study suggests that 41 percent of the rape charges made in his study were false. Police Surgeon N.M. Maclean performed a study in 1979 that found 49 percent false allegations. The percentage shoots up to 90 percent in C.H Stewart’s 1981 “A Retrospective Survey of Alleged Sexual Assault Cases.” However, all of these figures have been thoroughly debunked. In Kanin’s study, detectives, not evidence-based investigation, decided whether victims’ claims were false. Maclean employs questionable criteria for finding false cases, such as a victim not looking sufficiently disheveled. A scintillating gem from Stewart’s survey is “It was totally impossible to have removed her extremely tight undergarments from her extremely large body against her will.”

Many statistics used to justify high percentages of false rape accusations are from subjective, non-systematic research, namely the personal opinions of law enforcement officers or researchers. These studies don’t base their findings off of cases that have undergone investigation, but from judgments of detectives or officers. No jury verdict was delivered, but the victims were deemed liars all the same.

Controlling for subjective variables, such as personal judgments of victims based on mental illness, inconsistent statements or drinking, results in significantly fewer false accusations. For example, the previously mentioned British Home Office study originally found 8 percent of the accusations to be false. After controlling for the personal judgments of police officers, and using official criteria for a false allegation, the number shrunk to 2.5 percent.

Under Investigation

Even though there isn’t statistical evidence to substantiate the idea of widespread false rape charges, some people still believe it’s a very prominent problem. We have an automatic attitude of disbelief toward rape victims that directly affects investigations and trials. For example, a New Zealand study shows that police viewed 86 percent of women reporting a rape with suspicion. Victims are preemptively met with excessively hostile skepticism.

Why does this happen? We, as a society, have preconceived notions of what “real” rape is. When a case lacks the factors we associate with rape, we see it as impossible.

What are some signs of a “real” rape?

  • Victim and suspect are strangers
  • Physical violence/a weapon are involved
  • Evident signs of a struggle/physical injury
  • Victim is hysterical and immediately reports the crime
  • Victim is absolutely certain about every detail of their testimony
  • Victim doesn’t alter their account of the attack
  • Victim behaves appropriately traumatized when recalling attack

However, these factors don’t necessarily apply for many rape cases. According to The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence, most prosecutors say their cases usually have the following factors, known as “red flags,” which make people more skeptical of the case’s legitimacy. When a case has red flags, victims have difficulty telling a credible story, because they must overcome jurors’ expectations, not just meet them.

  • Rape is committed by someone known to the victim
  • Most victims don’t physically resist
  • No signs of physical injury
  • Victim does not immediately report to the police
  • Victim is not hysterical when recounting attack
  • Victims fail to give a linear account, focus on sensory detail
  • Victim omits or exaggerates part of their account
  • Victim displays erratic behavior
  • The suspect doesn’t fit the stereotype of a rapist

Expectations vs. Reality

One of the effects of red flags is seen with the jurors at a case from St. John’s University, who found the victim’s claim implausible because her behavior “just didn’t coincide with what we felt a victim should behave like.” Regarding relationships, rape is most often not a stranger violently attacking a victim in dark alley. A study by the Medical University of South Carolina found that 78 percent of the 4,008 rapes and sexual assaults were committed by someone the victim knew. When it comes to injuries, judges and jurors tend to view severe physical damage as proof of a lack of consent by the victim. However, only 5 percent of victims experience serious physical injuries.

Two other common red flags, when a victim is unable to give a chronological account or alters/omits elements of their attack, are typically used to assert that the claim is false. After all, if they gave inconsistent information about their attack or can’t remember the precise sequence of events, they must be lying, right?

Victims give inconsistent, incomplete or omitted information for numerous reasons. Neurobiology explains what happens. Often, when a victim experiences sexual assault, the pre-frontal cortex, principal in memory and decision making, can be temporarily impaired. The amygdala, which encodes emotional experiences, takes control, recording specific fragments of sensory information. According to clinical psychologist David Lisak, this is why many victims can only recall visceral sensory details, such as the sound of a voice, but can’t give a linear account.

In addition, many victims don’t immediately report an attack, also for a myriad of reasons. A wide range of factors, such as not knowing it was legally rape, using denial and suppression as a coping tactic or fearing that they will be disbelieved and blamed, all influence a victim’s willingness to report. Victims may change or omit elements of their attack, for example, to protect the perpetrator out of fear of retaliation or due to financial dependency. Even more commonly, victims are aware that their rape will only be taken seriously if it seems “real” enough. Victims may lie about drug or alcohol use, their relationship with the perpetrator or their past sexual history to sound like a more believable case.

It’s incredibly important to remember that incomplete or inconsistent information cannot be confused with a false report. A false report requires investigative proof that the crime never happened. Red flags damage the credibility of the victim in the eyes of others, but can’t be used to claim assault never occurred.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

“So, does this mean that we have to assume the defendant committed the crime? The law books don’t say ‘guilty until proven innocent!’”

A common misconception in the U.S. legal system, especially regarding rape cases, is that to presume innocence on the defendant’s part requires assuming that the accuser is lying. In stranger rape cases, the defense can argue that the complainant failed to pick the correct attacker, but in acquaintance rape cases, this misconception surrounding innocence cripples the mind of the jury because, generally, no such assumption can be made.

Therefore, the defense will likely argue that the alleged victim has offered false testimony. In order for jurors to keep up the “innocent until proven guilty” line of thinking, they often assume that the complainant is lying. When jurors feel that they must adopt an attitude of incredulity and skepticism toward the prosecution’s evidence, it will cause them to have a hostile and suspicious view of the complaining witness.

In reality, all the presumption of innocence means is that jurors must choose a not guilty verdict if the prosecution can’t provide sufficient evidence of a defendant’s guilt beyond a doubt. It does not mean that the accuser must be proven honest beyond a doubt.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Rape cases put the burden of proving innocence on the victim. For no other crime are victims treated with such suspicion and skepticism. The false reporting rates for every other crime are the same, yet the news has yet to be filled with headlines about people calling in false robberies or arson for kicks. Yes, there are rare cases where a defendant is falsely accused, and it’s horrifying to think of innocent people sent to prison on false charges. Fabricated reports only make it even more difficult for real victims to find justice. However, false allegations are simply not the widespread problem that people make them out to be.

The issue is further stratified by race. Women of color are stereotyped as being less “harmed” by sexual assault due to the stigma that has resulted from centuries of hyper-sexualization and dehumanization. All around the world, women of color are also far more likely to be attacked, and even less likely to be believed.

To move forward, we must acknowledge the grossly unfair bias against rape victims that exists in the public eye, law enforcement agencies and courtrooms. The automatic assumption that rape victims are lying is not rooted in fact, but a product of personal and societal prejudice.


Dispelling the Myth of the Girl Who Cried Rape

Category: Center News · Tags:

The Big Deal about Belittling

When abuse takes the form of insults and other disparaging words and actions

The Big Deal about Belittling

Emotional and psychological abuse can take many forms, including belittling, which can manifest as judging, humiliating, criticizing, trivializing or telling hurtful jokes. But belittling is no joking matter. It’s a tactic often used by abusers to make their victims feel small, unimportant or disrespected. It can take a toll on a survivor’s confidence and sense of self-esteem.

And, as with other forms of abuse, it’s a tool abusers use to exert control. The more down about yourself you feel, the more dependent you’ll be on your abuser to validate you—or, so they believe.

While belittling can be violent and hurtful, sometimes belittling can have innocent intentions, even if it’s still not kind, like a misguided attempt at a joke or a teasing that goes a little too far. How can you tell the difference between an intentionally insulting joke and one that might have just been foolish? By the way it makes you feel less than, and by the lack of a sincere apology when you express how hurtful the comment was. Sometimes, innocent jokes can be just that—said without ill will. But if a comment or action makes you feel bad, it’s your right to express your discomfort directly and to expect a genuine apology. Respectful partners should build each other up, not purposefully put each other down.

What Belittling Sounds Like

  • Yelling or screaming at you to get a reaction.
  • Insulting you—calling you fat, ugly or stupid—or criticizing your parenting skills or intelligence.
  • Ignoring how you feel, disregarding your opinion or failing to recognize your contributions.
  • Humiliating or embarrassing you, especially in front of family or friends.
  • Making you the butt of jokes or offhand comments that disparage you and then saying something like, “I didn’t mean it. I’m just teasing,” or telling you that you’re being too sensitive.
  • Bringing up past failures or mistakes as evidence of your incompetence or lack of intelligence.
  • Forcing you to agree with them instead of forming or expressing your own opinion.
  • Treating you as their property or as someone who has no value other than as a sex object.
  • Denying the belittling, blaming it on you or criticizing you for making too big a deal out of it.
  • Minimizing the seriousness of their abuse or accusing you of overreacting to their words or behaviors.
  • Blaming you for their abusive behavior, but then turning around and telling you how much they love you.

You may be experiencing some or all of these factors and still wonder, “Is this abuse?” It’s a hard pill to swallow, believing that the person you love and trust can be purposefully trying to hurt you as a means of power and control. But ask yourself this: Are you afraid of your partner? Do you walk on eggshells whenever he or she is around? Is the belittling becoming a regular occurrence? Does your partner lack remorse for hurting you?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you may need to face the reality that your partner is abusive. It can help to reach out to a trained domestic violence advocate and talk about your specific situation.

How You Can React

Abuse is not your fault. No one deserves to be demeaned or insulted. If you’re dealing with belittling behaviors, try these steps:

  • Don’t retaliate or insult them back.
  • Identify how the comment makes you feel, so that you can express your emotions.
  • Tell your partner exactly how they made you feel and that you didn’t like it.
  • Accept an apology, but don’t brush it off with a comment like “that’s OK,” which implies they have permission to do it again.

Don’t underestimate belittling as a form of abuse. Verbal abuse can escalate into physical abuse over time, putting your health and safety at risk. One study revealed that 95 percent of abusers who physically abuse their partners also verbally abuse them. Consider if this relationship is worth the risk.

In a healthy relationship, partners make sure not to hurt each other’s feelings intentionally. Read about what a non-abusive argument sounds like in, “It’s Okay to Argue.

On the flip side, see what common phrases abusers use in “20 Things Abusers Say.”

  • August 28, 2017
  • By

Category: Center News · Tags:

Ways You Change After Getting Out Of An Abusive Relationship

One in three women experience some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to research by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Women between 18 and 24 are most commonly the age bracket who experience violence at the hands of their partner and 15 percent of all violent crimes is an intimate partner violence crime. The numbers are terrifying to say the least.

Whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, or mental abuse, all abuse leaves wounds and a lasting impact. And while it may be easy for people on the outside to say you should just leave the relationship, it’s more complicated than that. Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and has escaped knows that, as with many things in life, leaving is easier said than done. And if children are involved, it’s even more difficult. However, for those who have been able to leave their abusive relationship, then comes the aftermath of trying to get their life in order again.

“Getting the strength to get out of an abusive relationship can feel as though you just moved a mountain off you,” Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, psychotherapist and author of Smart Relationships: How Successful Women Can Find True Love, tells Bustle. “You probably feel relieved — but you also might feel sad at the loss, and a bit frightened of trusting your love judgment again.”

Here’s how you change after you get out of an abusive relationship, according to experts.

1. You Might Become Overly Cautious

If you’ve been abused, your trust may go out the window. When that happens, it’s hard to accept that anyone, even if their intentions are genuine and legit, is not going to hurt you in some way. In effect, you build a wall around you and proceed with extreme hesitation.

“People become cautious, sometimes overly so,” relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. “This is very difficult to speak to since abuse is a serious thing and using ‘overly’ can sound both judgmental and insensitive. This said, while caution is important people often become cautious around everyone before eventually settling into institutional distrust.”

2. You Might Put Dating On Hold For Awhile

“You might avoid dating out of fear of repeating the same relationship pattern,” says Dr. Wish.

If you can’t trust anyone and you’re the victim of intimate partner abuse, then of course dating again is going to be extremely hard. And there’s no set time as to when it will stop being hard, so it’s a wait-and-see situation before you’re able to trust and date again.

3. You Become More Empathetic

When you’ve experienced such trauma, it’s only normal and human, to relate to those who are either currently experiencing similar abuse or have experienced such abuse in the past.

“Once people have been abused, they become very aware of — and compassionate to — other people inflight,” explains Armstrong. “News articles, co-worker stories, or even neighborhood rumors about bullying, rape, and other issues will trigger anger, sadness and, above all, empathy.”

4. You’re Easily Triggered

Not only are you triggered into feeling a whole slew of emotions, especially empathy, but it also doesn’t take much to trigger you — and it can also happen out of nowhere. A person who might resemble your abuser can walk past you on the street and suddenly your memories take you back to that abusive situation.

“[People] are triggered by memories of what happened and associations with anyone that shares a descriptor (gender, for instance) of the person who abused them,” says Armstrong.

5. You May Try To Overcompensate

Although you should never blame yourself for the abuse you’ve endured because it wasn’t you fault, some people, in a reaction to the actions that were done to them, might become hardened as a response. When that happens, it’s the other people around you who suffer.

“You also might over-correct your submissiveness and tolerance of abuse by becoming controlling, demanding, critical, and ‘no-nonsense’ in your next relationships,” says Dr. Wish.

6. You Might Become Self-Exploratory

Although there are no answers, other than the fact that it was your partner who was wrong and in need of psychological help, you might spend a lot of time looking inward, trying to decipher how things got to the point that they got to in your relationship.

“People become self-exploratory,” says Armstrong. “They want to know what happened. They want to know why it happened. They want to know what, if any role, they had in the abuse. Or, they want to understand how they could ‘let it happen’. Of course, abuse is never the responsibility of the abused, but that does not stop the introspection and self-reflection.”

7. You Might Feel Extra In Control

As Dr. Wish mentioned, getting out of an abusive relationship can feel like you “moved a mountain off you.” With this freedom can some a sense of relief, as though you’re in charge of your life again. “You feel emotionally stronger, and able to recognize abusive behavior,” says Dr. Wish. “You might even get emotionally brave enough to seek therapy so you can understand yourself better before risking love again.”

While it’s nice to think that once you’ve escaped an abusive relationship, you’ll never go back to that person or end up in an abusive relationship again, that’s not always the case. “We all would like to think that we’ve ‘learned our lesson’ about getting into unhealthy relationship patterns,” says Dr. Wish, “But sometimes we don’t recognize right away the similarities or the more hidden signs of disrespect in a new partner such as sarcasm, criticism, refusing to talk about issues, or the slow changes from being caring to being controlling.”

So although you may come out of an abusive relationship changed, it’s extremely important to seek therapy or support from loved ones so you work through your trauma and, ideally, never find yourself in such a situation again.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline.



Category: Center News · Tags:

Confidential Quick Contact

Send a quick confidential message right from the website to our staff. Since this is confidential, we will not be able to reply. If you would like a reply, please go to the "Contact" menu.

Please enter the text you see below in this form


Get In Touch

Contact Our Norfolk Office
305 N. 4th St.
Norfolk, NE 68701

Contact Our O'Neill Office
318 E. Douglas St.
O'Neill, NE 68763

Contact Our Ainsworth Office
PO Box 313
938 E Zero St.
Ainsworth, NE 69210

Or connect with us online:
Facebook Twitter RSS

Email Newsletter

Sign up to recieve email updates on what’s going on with Bright Horizons, it’s people and cause.

Join Our Mailing List