A study by the University of Washington discovered that men who commit abuse against their partners tend to significantly overestimate how common abuse occurs in other relationships. The study asked 124 men in batterer treatment programs how often they thought other men engaged in different forms of violence against their partners, such as pushing, grabbing, shoving or threatening a partner with a gun. Findings show that these men tended to overestimate by two to three times how frequently other men engaged in this behavior. Perceptions by batterers of how other men treat women tended to be directly related to the degree to which a batterer was abusive: the more abusive the man, the more common he assumed abusive behavior by others to be.
Why do abusers believe this? Abusers may convince themselves of this as a way to justify their own behavior. The researchers of this study propose that by changing the ideas about what abusers think is common behavior, it may help them understand that what they are doing is unacceptable, and encourage them to work towards stopping it.
This study also points to a larger issue in society - - why are men abusive? There are many ways to answer this question. In relation to the study findings, too many boys and men are getting the message that violence against women is a normally occurring experience. Changing this perception, means changing the messages we’re giving our boys. This can happen through better education about domestic violence in schools, changing the way women and men are depicted in the media, increasing counseling services for children who have witnessed violence in the home, and beyond anything else working towards a society that values women as much as men. When we change the way we think, we change the way we act.
To read more about domestic violence and where to get help please visit WomensLaw.org.