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The Four Categories of Battering



My 21 year old daughter married a 23 year old man in May of last year. She was 7 months pregnant with his child. He is very spoiled, his mother even confesses it. Anyhow, in the past 3 months my daughter has left him, this makes the 3rd time.

He is verbally abusive, and probably has a drinking problem. All their fights are due to his lack of responsibility in going out too much, staying out too late, and this last time losing his job. He always turns the conversations around and says he’s a good dad, he even told my daughter if she were a good mother she’d quit her job and quit paying another lady to watch him. Her job is the good job in their family. His job was sporadic furniture delivery.

He recently pushed her and caused her to fall. He says he’s sorry, and won’t talk ugly to her anymore. The time before when she left she went to his parent’s house and they were supposed to start counseling. She went back and it never happened. That was 1 1/2 months ago.

Since then he has been out on his “deserved” outings 4 times, once stayed out all night without calling, the last time stayed out too late, didn’t get up and lost his job. When my daughter confronted him he was angry at his boss for firing him and planned to give him a piece of his mind. She said it was his own fault and he told her she was fat and couldn’t cook.

My husband and I are trying hard to stay out of it and be objective. This time she has an apartment and has set up counseling for them both. His family, especially his mother, say they love our daughter and are understanding of her-but, of course want her to stay. Yesterday, a longtime friend of ours came up and told us that a longtime friend of my son in law’s parents think he is a sociopath with no conscience and warned that our daughter should not be with him.

We think he is just extremely spoiled and used to pitching big fits and getting his way. Given this, is that something that can be changed? We don’t want our daughter to have a broken marriage. On the other hand, we don’t want her hurt. She is a very smart, confident girl who seems to doubt her own judgment here.

She is asking our advice and until recently it has been to keep her marriage together no matter what. My husband and I both feel unsure about that now. We have absolutely no experience in this type of thing.


It sounds as if this is your first experience with this type of behavior, so perhaps sharing some information about battering would be most beneficial. In the literature on domestic violence (Belknap, 2000), four categories of battering have been developed. It is not uncommon for more than one of these to occur within the same battering relationship.

The first category, more common to all of us, is physical battering, which may consist of slapping, kicking, hitting, or any other form of non-sexual physical violence.

The second category, sexual battering, occurs when there is a sexual nature to the violence.

The third category is psychological battering. Women who experience violence in their relationships often describe this type of abuse as the most damaging. Here the victim is often threatening, demeaned, or discredited.
The last category of abuse involves the destruction of pets and property.
Most researchers feel that in most cases, violence or the threat of violence is an ongoing process and it is not uncommon for the victim to experience many different types of abuse (physical, sexual, or psychological) within a single relationship.

I must add that if alcohol abuse problems are included, the risk of battering increases. There are certain factors that may strongly indicate high-risk potential for battering to occur in a relationship.

For example, marrying a man who has very traditional views of women’s roles is a major risk factor. A man who holds very traditional views of women may determine how much a woman cares for him by how well she fulfills his traditional expectations.

So if she does not have dinner on the table when he returns home from work, he may feel that she does not care as much for him; he may also hold negative views towards his partner/spouse if she works outside the home.

Yet another example is a woman who may be at greater risk for battering, if she is involved with a man who has a more “violence-prone personality” and she earns more money than he, or is more educated.

Your awareness and your sensitivity to what your daughter is experiencing are to be commended. There are many myths and problems surrounding battering. As you can see, battering can take many forms, but remember that the results are always devastating.

The research shows that unless the man takes responsibility for using violence in the relationship, the abuse will not stop no matter what the woman does. Experts in the area often recommend that the woman and the man enter counseling separately and work on their own issues. It may then be possible for the couple to enter into treatment together. So perhaps, encouraging your daughter and her husband to consider this option might be a first step.

If you would like to read more about this issue, Lenore Walker is an expert in the area and has written many fine books on domestic violence, two of which are “The Battered Woman Syndrome” and “The Cycle of Violence.” Many of the comments shared above were taken from the work of Dr. Walker, as well as Joanne Belknap, Ph.D., who also does research in this area of battering and stalking. You might want to read her book, “The Invisible Woman.” 

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic.