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Home Articles Identifying Abuse Will It Happen Again?

Will It Happen Again?

Do past behaviors predict future abuse?

  • Feb 01, 2016
  • By
  • 28k have read
Will It Happen Again?

Batterers are often considered individuals who terrorize, intimidate, control and abuse their partners. And, they typically do it again and again. In fact, 31 percent of those convicted on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge were arrested again within a year of being released, according to the Center for Court Innovation, and 44 percent were arrested again within two years.

If someone has abused you or another person in the past, are they destined to repeat their actions in the future?

“The chances are high that an abuser will be abusive again, and any past history of domestic violence should be a huge red flag,” says Gretchen Shaw, NCADV associate director. “In order to change, the abuser has to consciously choose to change and take responsibility for being abusive, permanently.”

The question is how do you know if someone has truly changed? Here are some indicators.

He or she has gone to counseling. A lot of counseling. Alone. Notice we didn’t say they’ve gone to counseling with you. “Abusers really need to do individual therapy first to work out their issues,” says Dani Bostick, a counselor and member of the American Counseling Association. “You can’t [change an abuser] by going to couples counseling. That presupposes abuse is a relationship problem and that the abused partner is somewhat to blame. That’s not the case at all.” Additionally, it may place the victim in further danger of being abused.

It should be noted, however, that therapy is not a guaranteed game-changer when it comes to abuse. It may be of benefit to an abuser, and could have positive outcomes, but it shouldn't be looked at as a miracle cure, warns advocates. 

He or she does not badmouth the ex. If you’re considering a relationship with someone who previously was abusive, consider how he or she speaks about exes. If your potential partner blames an ex for all their problems or calls him or her crazy, take note.

“Slandering past partners is a big red flag that an abuser hasn’t changed,” Bostick says. “That shows a lack of respect for previous partners and isn’t a good bonding technique with a new partner.”

Keep in mind that however someone speaks about an ex is likely how he or she could speak about you one day.

They take responsibility. Abusers who have changed will see the error of their ways and take responsibility for their actions—full responsibility. If someone blames their partner for any part of the abuse or begins negotiating his or her part in the abuse, that’s a clear sign he or she is not reformed.

“If there’s any element of blame, including blaming previous partners, that’s a sign that that person may still be abusive,” Bostick says. “Someone being nice or less mean might just be part of the pattern of abuse. And remember that abuse patterns can change, too. Don’t think just because a lot of time has gone by between abuse doesn’t mean it isn’t still there.”

For more signs to look for to determine whether an abuser has truly changed, check out “Can Abusers Change?” Also check out “Recognizing ‘Unsafe People,’” for a list of traits one author says can spell trouble.