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“Maybe This Time He’ll Change”

ROXANA * is a vivacious, attractive mother of four children, married to a well-respected surgeon in South America. “My husband is charming with the ladies, popular with the men,” she says. But there is a dark side to Roxana’s mate, one that even their close friends do not see. “At home, he’s a monster. He’s intensely jealous.”

Roxana’s face is etched with anxiety as she continues her story. “The problem began after we’d been married for just a few weeks. My brothers and my mother visited us, and I had such a good time talking and laughing with them. But when they left, my husband violently threw me onto the sofa, wild with rage. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

Sadly, that was just the beginning of Roxana’s ordeal, for over the years, she has been battered repeatedly. The abuse seems to follow a predictable cycle. Roxana’s husband beats her, then he apologizes profusely and promises never to do it again. His conduct improves—at least for a while. Then the nightmare starts all over. “I keep thinking that maybe this time he’ll change,” Roxana says. “Even when I run away, I always go back to him.”

Roxana fears that one day her husband’s violence will escalate further. “He has threatened to kill me, the children, and himself,” she says. “One time he put scissors to my throat. Another time he threatened me with a gun, pointed it at my ear, and pulled the trigger! Fortunately, there was no bullet, but I nearly died from fright.”

A Legacy of Silence

Like Roxana, millions of women worldwide are suffering at the hands of violent men. * Many of them remain silent about their ordeal. They reason that reporting the matter will prove futile. After all, many an  abusive husband has simply denied charges with such statements as “My wife is excitable” or “She tends to exaggerate.”

It is sad that many women live with a constant fear of attack in the one place they should feel the safest—their own home. Yet, sympathy is all too often shown to the perpetrator instead of the victim. Indeed, some cannot bring themselves to believe that a man who appears to be an upstanding citizen would beat his mate.


Consider what happened to a woman named Anita when she spoke up about the abuse she was receiving from her well-respected husband. “One of our acquaintances said to me: ‘How can you accuse such a fine man?’ Another said that I must somehow be provoking him! Even after my husband was exposed, some of my friends began avoiding me. They felt that I should have put up with it because ‘that’s the way men are.’”


As Anita’s experience shows, many find it difficult to grasp the grim reality of spouse abuse.


What drives a man to be so cruel to the woman he claims to love?

How can victims of violence be helped?



Why Do Men Batter Women?

SOME experts say that women are more likely to be killed by their male partners than by all other types of perpetrators combined. In an effort to stem the tide of spouse abuse, numerous studies have been conducted. What kind of man batters his wife? What was his childhood like? Was he violent during courtship? How does the batterer respond to treatment?

One thing experts have learned is that not all batterers are alike. At one end of the scale is a man whose violence is sporadic. He does not use a weapon and has no history of abusing his mate. For him, a violent episode is out of character and seems to be motivated by external factors. At the other extreme is a man who has developed a chronic pattern of battering. His abuse is ongoing, and there is little, if any, sign of remorse.

However, the fact that there are different kinds of batterers does not mean that some forms of battering aren’t serious. Indeed, any type of physical abuse can cause injury—even death. Hence, the fact that one man’s violence is less frequent or less intense than another’s does not make it excusable. There is simply no such thing as “acceptable” battering. What factors, though, might cause a man to abuse physically the woman he vowed to cherish for the rest of his life?

The Family Connection

Not surprisingly, a number of physically abusive men were themselves raised in abusive families. “Most batterers were brought up in domestic ‘war zones,’” writes Michael Groetsch, who has spent more than two decades researching spouse abuse. “As babies and young children, they grew up in hostile surroundings where emotional and physical violence were ‘normal.’” According to one expert, a male who is raised in such an environment “can absorb his father’s contempt for women very early in life. The boy learns that a man must always be in control of women and that the way to get that control is to scare them, hurt them, and demean them. At the same time, he learns that the  one sure way to get his father’s approval is to behave as his father does.”

Of course, the family environment does not excuse a man’s battering, but it may help to explain where the seeds of a violent temperament were sown.

Cultural Influence

In some lands beating a woman is considered acceptable, even normal. “The right of a husband to beat or physically intimidate his wife is a deeply held conviction in many societies,” states a United Nations report.

Even in lands where such abuse is not considered acceptable, many individuals adopt a violent code of conduct. The irrational thinking of some men in this regard is shocking. According to South Africa’s Weekly Mail and Guardian, a study in the Cape Peninsula found that the majority of men who claimed that they do not abuse their mates felt that hitting a woman was acceptable and that such conduct does not constitute violence.

Evidently, such a warped view often begins in childhood. In Britain, for example, one study showed that 75 percent of boys aged 11 and 12 feel that it is acceptable for a man to hit a woman if he is provoked.

No Excuse for Battering

The above factors may help to explain spouse abuse, but they do not excuse it. Put  simply, beating one’s mate is a gross sin in God’s eyes. In his Word, the Bible, we read: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation.”—Ephesians 5:28, 29.

The Bible long ago foretold that during “the last days” of this system of things, many would be “abusive,” with “no natural affection,” and “fierce.”


What can be done to support victims of physical abuse? Is there any hope that batterers can change their course of behavior?


Battered wives are responsible for their husband’s actions.

Many batterers deny responsibility for their actions, claiming that their wives provoke them. Even some friends of the family may buy into the idea that the wife is difficult to deal with, so no wonder that her husband loses control now and then. But this amounts to blaming the victim and justifying the aggressor. Really, battered wives often make extraordinary efforts to pacify their husbands. Besides, beating one’s partner is never justified under any circumstances. The book The Batterer—A Psychological Profile states: “Men who are sent by the courts to treatment for wife assault are addicted to violence. They use it as a release from anger and depression, a way to take control and resolve conflicts, and a tension reducer. . . . Often, they can’t even acknowledge their role or take the problem seriously.”

Alcohol causes a man to beat his wife.

Granted, some men are more violent when they have been drinking. But is it reasonable to blame the alcohol? “Being intoxicated gives the batterer something to blame, other than himself, for his behavior,” writes K. J. Wilson in her book When Violence Begins at Home. She continues: “It appears that, in our society, domestic violence is more comprehensible when inflicted by a person who is intoxicated. An abused woman can avoid seeing her partner as abusive, instead thinking of him as a heavy drinker or an alcoholic.” Such thinking, Wilson points out, can give a woman the false hope that “if the man would only stop drinking, the violence would cease.”

Currently, many researchers consider drinking and battering to be two distinct problems. After all, the majority of men with substance-abuse problems do not beat their mates. The writers of When Men Batter Women note: “Battering is fundamentally perpetuated by its success in controlling, intimidating, and subjugating the battered woman. . . . Alcohol and drug abuse are part of the lifestyle of the batterer. But it would be a mistake to assume that the drug use causes the violence.”

Batterers are violent with everyone.

Often the batterer is capable of being a delightful friend to others. He puts on what can be called the Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities. This is why friends of the family may find the stories of his violence unbelievable. Yet, the truth is, the wife beater chooses brutality as a way to dominate his wife.

Women do not object to being mistreated.

Likely, this idea stems from not understanding the helpless situation of a woman who has nowhere to run. The battered wife may have friends who will take her in for a week or two, but what will she do after that?


Finding a job and paying rent while caring for children are daunting prospects. And the law may forbid running off with the children. Some have tried to leave but were hunted down and taken back, either by force or by charm.


Friends who cannot understand may mistakenly believe that such women did not object to the mistreatment

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