Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse

Adapted from

Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse

If he claims he’s “changed” but isn’t doing the steps below, he’s not really changing. He’s manipulating you.

1. Admit all his abusive behaviour. This includes emotional, sexual, or physical abuse of present or past partners. He must stop suggesting you are “acting hurt” because you are unstable, weak or stupid, and stop implying you’re trying to turn people against him because you’re jealous or resentful. He must acknowledge the good in you and any other person he has abused, rather than try to save face by insisting all his “abusees” are instigators or bad seeds. He must stop all denying and minimising, including questioning and rebuffing your memory of the abuse.

2. Acknowledge his behaviour is a choice, not a loss of control. He needs to recognise that during each incident he gives himself permission to be abusive, and then he continues to choose how much to let himself go.

3. Acknowledge that his abusive behaviour was wrong, unconditionally. He must identify his typical justifications, and admit they are just excuses to be abusive; like “I just lost control” or “I was just trying to get you to listen!” He can no longer try to defend his abuse by pointing out how much you get on his nerves (emphasising how victimised he is by your “annoying” behaviour). He needs to explain in detail about why his behaviours are totally unacceptable, stop blaming you, and make a heartfelt apology. He must stop asserting that your reactions to the abuse are abusive to him. He must admit he knows that your self-defense, blunt honesty about his hurtful actions, or refusal to be bullied is NOT abuse.

4. Recognise the impact his abuse has had on you, and show empathy. He needs to discuss in detail the immediate and enduring effects his abuse has had on you, including your fear, distrust, depression, anger, and loss of freedom and other rights. He must face you to validate your pain, knowing fully he caused it. During this empathetic description of the damage he has done, he can’t revert to self-pity, talking about how painful the experience has been for him. Apologising is critical; but he also has to recognise that being genuinely sorry is just the beginning, and meaningless unless he seriously examines the swath of destruction he has caused.

5. Make amends for the damage he’s done. He has to develop a sense that he is in debt to you and to your children as a result of his abusiveness. He can begin reparation by being consistently caring and supportive, talking with people whom he has misled in regard to the abuse in admitting to them he lied, putting your needs before his own without expecting to be congratulated for it, and many more actions related to cleaning up the emotional and literal messes that his behaviours have caused. As he does this, he needs to accept that he may never be able to fully compensate you. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviours and entitled attitudes. He needs to speak in detail about the day-to-day tactics of abuse he has used. Accept the need to give up his privileges and do so, this means saying goodbye to double-standards.

6. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a life-long process. At no time can he claim his work is done by saying, “I’ve bent enough”, or complain that he’s sick of hearing about his abusiveness or control and ask when you’re planning or going to get past it. He needs to come to terms with the reality of working on his issues for good, and that you may feel the effects of what he has done for many years. Equally important, he must be able to identify his underlying beliefs and values that have driven those behaviours, such as considering himself entitled to constant attention, looking down on you as inferior, or believing that men aren’t responsible for their actions if provoked by a partner.

7. He must treat you well from now on. He must honour a commitment to never repeat his abusive, manipulative, coercive, belittling behaviours. His improvement is not dependent on your good behaviour– such as saying that he won’t call you names as long as you don’t raise your voice to him. If he backslides, he cannot justify his abusive behaviours by saying, “Yeah, I screwed up, but for three years I behaved, don’t I get credit for that? You expect me to be perfect?” as if his good behaviour is chips to spend on occasional abuse.

8. Abandon his distorted, negative picture of you and swap it with a more empathetic view. He must stop asserting that your reactions to his abuse are abusive to him, proving he’s justified or excused. He must recognise his thought pattern that focuses on and exaggerates his grievances against you. As a result, his perceptions of your weaknesses tend to be quite harsh and unforgiving. He needs to compliment you and pay attention to your strengths and abilities.

9. Be willing to be accountable for his actions both past and future. He is no longer above reproach, and this attitude must be replaced with a willingness to accept feedback and criticism for any backsliding.


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