Who Lives Behind Closed Doors

Who Lives Behind Closed Doors

Good morning to you all, my name is Zara and I am a domestic abuse practitioner for Next Chapter and I support survivors of domestic abuse.  My background comes with experience of working directly with male and female perpetrators of domestic abuse and I wanted to share some insight with you.

If I were to ask you, what does a perpetrator look like?  What or who would you think of?

Before I came into this role I had a view in my head of what I thought a perpetrator would look like.  I had a view on how I thought they would act too.

They didn’t look how I thought they would.  I think that is the strange part of it all.  Within society we think we would or should know what a perpetrator looks like, how they would act and that it would be more obvious for us.

It isn’t.

The scary thing is you could walk down the street and it could be any person, tall, short, muscly, skinny.  Even their job roles… we think a criminal, someone who has convictions… when really, they can be anyone, any job.  I have worked with solicitors, I have worked with people who have had non related convictions.

The reason I am discussing this is because we all have had those thoughts.

He’s charming smart and comes across to others as a nice person, no one will believe me, no one will listen to me, no one will hear me.

We often hear how they can act one way in front of others but behind closed doors they are a different person. Its like they are Jekyll and Hyde. The one side of him that you love and then there is the other side to him. One that no one really knows about other then you. It doesn’t always start with the extreme. They started with the digs, the put downs, the making you feel like your going crazy. The little things that you can’t quite put your finger on but gives you that feeling in your tummy that makes you feel like something is not okay. We don’t always understand that feeling. We don’t always recognise that what is going on is abusive either. Then there comes a time, where we feel like we are drowning. How do we get out of this? What do I do? The worries and the panic. We don’t think it will ever happen to us, that we will be in a domestic abusive relationship. It is more common then you think though. 1 in 4 woman and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. You are not alone.

A perpetrator can use violence and abuse to assert power and control over their partner. When they believe their tactic of control is failing they may resort to using violence. Men biologically are more capable of causing physical harm. Not all perpetrators use physical harm every day or often, but rely on the fear of physical harm to keep their partner in check. These perpetrators can change their character in an instant.

A perpetrator comes in many forms. Overall, we name them “the dominator” but there are many different aspects to them.

The Bully uses intimidation and body language to control you. Slamming off doors, pacing, invading your personal space. They may shout, sulk or sneer.

The Headworker uses emotional abuse to control you by telling you’re your stupid, ugly, worthless with constant put downs.

The Jailer isolates his partner. Makes you feel bad for going out with family or friends. They may refuse to care for the children and be against you working to.

The Liar or more so the minimiser. Makes the abuse seem less then what it is. Denies what happened, he has an array of excuses such as loss of temper, self esteem etc and places blame on others.

The Bad Father uses the children to control and abuse. Sending messages via the children “mummy won’t let you see me,” employing a variety of tactics to turn the children against you or use them to manipulate or harass you.

King of the Castle using male privilege to control.  Refuses to do anything, no housework, won’t cook a meal won’t help with children because it is their belief that it is a woman’s role.

Sexual Controller uses sex as a form of control. They make us have sex or sexual acts when we do not want to. This can be rape and even unwanted touching. Touching and sex while you are asleep or even you giving in after pestering. Being told “if you loved me you would”.

Persuader often comes in when the relationship is over or when we try to leave. They have an enormous amount of threats, threats to you or himself, bribes, intimidation or humiliation. They will tell us they can’t cope without us, that they can’t stop crying because how can they live without us. They will use coercion to make you feel sorry for him and take him back.

A perpetrator doesn’t have to be just one of these.  It can be a combination.  Fundamentally you know your partner.  You know them well enough to know what would upset them and cause them harm.  If they continue to upset you, even though they know what will, that is abusive.

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence.

Perpetrators have poor emotional management and adverse behaviour.  Perpetrators often have poor empathy.  Abusive partners tend to be less aware of their internal state and have greater difficulty in identifying their emotions.  They tend to have low tolerance for unpleasant, negative emotions combined with aggression which provides an immediate short-term relief from those negative emotions.  This relief then reinforces the negative behaviour as its a short-term relief from the negative emotion.

The way we act is based upon our beliefs.  All our actions are driven by our beliefs and they effect our behaviour.  A perpetrator’s beliefs are often distorted and contradict each other and this is known as cognitive dissonance.  Belief systems are made up of our global/ society beliefs, our community beliefs, our relationships and our own individual beliefs. Our greatest influence is ourselves.  Us alone have the power to challenge our beliefs.

Something I discuss often with survivors;              


It comes down to a choice.  We reach an age where we are able to make our own decisions regardless of our upbringing and beliefs.  This age usually is in our early 20's where we start to rationalise and challenge our beliefs.

Often, I will hear on perpetrator groups that they experienced abuse as a child (cycle of abuse) or they grew up believing certain things (belief systems) but we reach an age where we can challenge our beliefs and make changes which is called the age of autonomy.  We are responsible for our own behaviour and our own actions.

I hear survivors tell me that he has been through a lot and you’ve tried to help him.  I'm sure you have tried everything you can but they are responsible for their own actions.  I hear that they acted the way they did because of something a survivor said or done.  I’ve had a case where a man told her if she didn’t nag so much he would not have hit her.  Simply NO.  We make choices.  The choice was made to act in the way they did.  Those choices are harder to make when we are not thinking rationally and our emotional arousal is through the roof but they are still choices.  Bad choices.

We hear often that he lost control.  A complete loss of control would be fatal.  At some point in the abuse they choose to stop at a certain point.  Complete loss of control would not enable a point to stop.  They wouldn’t.  So, when he tells you he lost control it’s an excuse.  It's poor emotional management and bad choices have been made.

We hear often that he has mental health.  If it was true mental health then his behaviour would be like it to everyone. Including his work colleagues, boss, family his own mum.

I’m guessing though he doesn’t behave this way to others. Just you, just his partner. It’s a choice.

During lock-down things have become heightened and the living situation for many is a scary place to be at the moment.  It may not feel like you have a choice during lock-down but you do.  If it is safe to do so make contact.  There are different ways to do this.

You are here, reading this blog so please look at the options you have on our website.  You can message us, call, text, if it is not safe to make contact yourself tell somebody, anybody.  I know you fear being believed, you fear being listened to, you fear what might happen or how you are going to do this at all......

We hear you, we are listening, we are here to support you, empower you and give you control back of your life to start the Next Chapter.

For more information you can read the book “Living with the Dominator” by Pat Craven.

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