Add To Cart

You Made Me Hit You! Interventions with Male Batterers

Section 7

Question 7 | Test | Table of Contents

Read content below or listen to audio.
Left click audio track to Listen; Right click to "Save..." mp3

In the last section, we discussed Overcontrollers vs. Undercontrollers as well as Impulsive vs. Instrumental batterers.

As you know, batterers find ways to rationalize their abusive actions. Have you found, like I, that batterers tend to rationalize by blaming others in order to put themselves in a favorable "Nice Guy" light?

In this section, we will discuss what I term "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies." I feel that these Positioning Strategies are motivated by the batterers' desire to maintain the status quo. The purpose of maintaining the status quo is to minimize the seriousness of their actions, or to deny their actions completely.

♦ Two "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies"
I, probably like you, have found two recurring "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies": one is Blaming the Battered and the second is Parent-Blaming. As you listen to these strategies, ask yourself, how is a client you are currently seeing making rationalizations to avoid change and to avoid accepting responsibility for his actions?

First: Blaming the Battered
As you know, many male batterers attempt to rationalize their violence by describing events as being "out of their control." I term this a "Nice Guy Positioning Strategy." These "out of control" events then lead to the batterers' violent outbursts. Batterers act like they are the victim by saying "she asked for it!" Acting victimized provided a means for Stan to distance himself from his abuse. Stan, age 27, was court ordered to batterer therapy after an incident in which he strangled and choked his wife, Janet, leaving her severely bruised and swollen. The incident occurred during an argument about how Stan had hung up on Janet during a phone conversation.

In our initial session, Stan stated, "I'm not trying to justify my violence or anything, it's just…well, like Janet calls me at work. Now, I've told her so many times: Don't call me at work! I've got people milling around my desk, people waiting to use the phone, and I'm trying to look like everything's cool! You know, and I'm saying to her, 'Janet, I can't talk now, I can't talk,' and she goes on and on, and I say I'm going to hang up! and she goes on, so I finally just hang up. Then she's mad when I get home. If all she does is yell, fine! But if she touches me, she's in real trouble!" After Stan hit Janet, he told her, "You wanted it to come to this. You always wanted it to come to this."

Think of a batterer you are currently treating who denies his responsibility by blaming the victim. Or think of a batterer who blames the situation. Do you need to increase your awareness of your client's "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies?" At the end of this section, I will discuss Scene by Scene Decoding, which is an intervention I have found effective with batterer victim-blaming.

Second: Parent-Blaming
While it is often the case that batterers grow up in abusive homes, think of a client you are currently treating who claims no personal responsibility for his actions by placing blame on his upbringing. Stan was quick to justify his violence. He stated, "My father ruled the house with an iron hand. Boy, he would pound the crap out of me after he had a couple drinks. Once he grabbed my arm and burned it with a cigarette to teach me a lesson for stumbling over the footstool in the living room. Man, he definitely did not spare the rod! So with a bastard like that for a father, who wouldn't have to let off steam every now and then?"

Think of your Stan and specifically if he used parent-blaming in your last session. I found that in my sessions with Stan, I needed to remain aware of Stan's attempts to position himself in a victimized frame of reference. As you know, clients like Stan can be quite skilled at eliciting and manipulating therapists' feelings in a session. Information about Stan's childhood might be valuable in understanding how Stan's past affects his current actions. However, I feel that Stan is overly reliant upon the actions of his father as an excuse to "rightfully" abuse. Obviously, Parent-Blaming is a strategy that enables him to maintain his "Nice Guy" Position.

Scene by Scene Decoding
One technique I found useful in dealing with these "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies" is to use John Hamberger's intervention of "Scene by Scene Decoding" from his book, Treating Men Who Batter. Here's how Hamberger's intervention worked with Stan.

4-Step Intervention

Step #1 -
I began by showing a short videotape that illustrated an instance of physical abuse.
Step #2 - Then I listed for the group some methods that were used by the batterer in the video to minimize and/or deny his actions, or in other words, to place blame elsewhere. As you are aware, domestic violence videos can be found on the Internet by using a search engine, like, and entering the keywords "domestic violence video" or "physical abuse video."
Step #3 - After listing, I chose a member of the group, Stan in this case, to describe in as much detail as he could a time when he was abusive toward Janet. He spoke about the choking incident that had led to his arrest. I asked Stan plenty of questions about the incident so that the group could get as realistic a description of Stan's emotions and behaviors at the time of the incident as possible.
Step #4 - Then, I urged the group to do the same Scene Decoding with Stan's situation that I had done with the situation on the videotape. The group began to become more aware of the possibility that Stan might be turning the story around in his mind and in group sessions, to position himself into a more positive light.

The group started to question whether Stan might be putting too much blame on Janet for nagging him and for ignoring his request to talk at a later time when he wasn't working. They began to understand, then, that perhaps Stan should have taken some responsibility himself for allowing his anger to lead to violence. Granted, this resulted in a pressure situation for Stan. However, as you know, court-ordered clients for whom I am writing a recommendation to the judge are motivated to participate by the court mandate.

In the next section, we will discuss the batterer's shame and desire for control.
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Banyard, V. L., Rizzo, A. J., & Edwards, K. M. (2020). Community actionists: Understanding adult bystanders to sexual and domestic violence prevention in communities. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. 

Buchbinder, E. (2018). Metaphors of transformation: Change in male batterers. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(3), 352–361.

Harman, J. J., Kruk, E., & Hines, D. A. (2018). Parental alienating behaviors: An unacknowledged form of family violence. Psychological Bulletin, 144(12), 1275–1299. 

What are two Nice Guy Positioning Strategies to increase your awareness of in your next session? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 8
Table of Contents