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  • BY RUBY RAJA

Understanding Abusers in order to Heal from Abuse

For those of us who know about abusive relationships, are in one now, or know someone that is in one, it’s time to learn how to heal. You can only do that by knowing you’re perfect just the way you are but the abuser would have made sure to have left you believing this to be an alien concept.


Guess again … It’s not alien, we just have to pivot, or re-align, you choose.


After abuse, that statement is not so easy to believe so we need to learn to heal gently and by being kind to ourselves. What that means is we need to learn what makes abusive relationships, who the players are and to start understanding according to our personal situation.  That means our history, our experience, our understanding, not someone else’s.


In future articles, I’d like to talk about the professionals we may have to work with, such as Social Workers, Domestic Violence Advocates and other people who form the system we work in. The list of professionals is quite long and your outcomes are likely to vary depending on the person you’re working with and their kindness, or lack of kindness.


So what do I mean? In an abusive relationship, there is an abuser, also called a perpetrator. The person being abused is often called the victim, a term that is disempowering. This does sometimes depend on which side of the pond you’re on, Europe or America as the language also has different meanings but I digress! Women I’ve worked with tell me they don’t like these titles and tell me that professionals say, ‘oh, and we have a survivor with us’, or, ‘so and so was a victim of domestic violence’, which they struggle with.


The person being abused is often called the victim, a term that is disempowering.

The women who were part of my thesis, ‘How Women Escape the Self-Imposed Controls of Marriage’ (2017),  told me they didn’t like the labels because it made them feel restricted once again, and that they were fighting the very people who claimed to be helping them. I was really happy that they were finding their voice as, at the time I met them, they knew very little. They certainly didn’t understand that their husbands had been perpetrators.


Let’s talk about the Abuser, the Perpetrator, and open up the understanding for you to explore. I hope this alone will give you AHA moments, as well as the thought bubbles you’ve probably experienced over the years, that knowing, but not really feeling sure, and then feeling too scared to say anything to anyone.


I personally have a tendency of self-doubting first in most situations whether I’m studying or working, before I arrive at recognising I was right, but the self-doubt is what we MUST destroy in order to own our beliefs and assert our rights. 


Become a Warrior Woman, why don’t you?


I’m also going to introduce another aspect of abuse, Multiple Domestic Violence Perpetrators (MDVP). If MDVP feels a little strange, let me explain so you can start unlocking your own experiences and recognise the moving parts in different scenarios. If it doesn’t apply to you or what you’ve experienced, throw it away, put it on the back burner. I think you’ll find it helpful though. Incidentally, when you deal with the criminal justice system (CJS) you’ll find them using the word perpetrator, they’re talking about the person that commits the offence.


A  perpetrator is someone who harms another person. In the context of this article, I’m speaking of men who harm women, and are abusive toward women. I acknowledge that there are perpetrators in all and every type of relationship, regardless of age, sexuality, culture, religion, disability and including all socio-economic classes, but I’m speaking in the male/female relationship.


Women can also be perpetrators toward men in DV relationships. Children, as young as four, five and six, are also known to be perpetrators often toward their mothers but that’s a different topic for later.


The harm perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse cause can be catastrophic and result in the loss of life and very often destroy a woman’s ability to function. When they use narcissistic behaviours and coercive control, women are often still blind-sided despite so many experiences to reflect on, and the concept being spoken of as much as it is. This shows that words are thrown around too casually. We need time to understand how they apply in real life and also, to speak our own truths.


In relationships in the West, we assume that the perpetrator is normally a partner, a lover, or an ex. Don’t be mistaken. It can also be friends, family and other relevant people. It isn’t necessarily classified as Multiple Domestic Violence Perpetrators. But that’s what it is.


This is the power of definitions and repeating a phrase or concept again and again and attributing it to a particular group of people. 


In other communities, it seems to be more readily acceptable that there may be more than one perpetrator and it may include members of his family, or even your own. This is not strictly speaking correct as it can be a host of people, people you would never have considered. 


I worked with White English woman who, when I shared the definition of MDVP, was able to recognise that her mother-in-law-to-be was in fact one of her perpetrators and she had loved her, trusted her and believed in everything she had said or done for her. Another Western woman identified her partners' children as being perpetrators toward her.  The list is endless of who ‘other’ perpetrators could be but the media doesn’t drive the agenda as vigorously toward the White community regarding MDVP, so unless there is a need to be met, the negative attributes are passed onto other communities, usually of colour.


I hope this gives some insight into what a perpetrator is or can be. I wanted to write about them as, in the worst scenarios where women find themselves in court and they receive a favourable outcome, in other words, the Judge judges in the woman’s favour, she is still  going to have to do the work of healing long-term. A sentence in your favour only says, you were right which you knew all along. 

woman drinking tea
It is possible to heal from abuse

The healing comes from taking the issue apart and putting it back in the right place for you, which comes through understanding. As you learn to see what happened, you learn to become you again, the one hiding inside waiting to unleash into the real world.


Don’t we owe it to ourselves to figure out how to give ourselves that strength?


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Meet the expert:

Ruby is an Author, Domestic Violence and Abuse Trainer and Certified Trauma Facilitator. She worked as a Probation Officer 15+ years and in Violence Against Women and Abuse for 25+ years.


Dive deeper into her wealth of knowledge:



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