Can Abusers Change? And if so, How?

Most people in abusive relationships would like to think their abusive partner will change, sadly victims will continue to suffer and put up with the abuse, believing and hoping that things would get better over time.

But does this really happen, can the abuser change? Will things get better for the victim over time? We will discuss the answers to these questions and much more in this guide.

Can Abusers change their ways?

Most people have the capacity to make changes, however any change requires responsibility and commitment, something the individual has to do for themselves. For abusers, change is possible but it is not something the victim or anyone else can try to do, the abuser needs to want to change themselves. Some abusers use false promises to change, often as a way make victims stay in the relationship, but when does the victim know if the pledge is real?

Well real change happens with real effort, it’s not something that will happen overnight. Here are some signs that may indicate change in an abuser;

  • The abuser fully acknowledges their abuse
  • They stop blaming or making excuses for their behaviour
  • Change how they respond and act in conflicts
  • community support
  • Develop respectful, kind and supportive behaviours and attitudes
  • Begin to prioritise the feelings, needs and wishes of the victim over their own

Please note this list is indicative rather than exhaustive, every situation will vary and will need to be assessed accordingly. Remember abusers are masters of manipulation, their behaviours and attitudes are normally centred on feeling of entitlement and privilege, and this can be very difficult to change. 

The victims need to understand that this is not their responsibility, they have to prioritise themselves and do what is right for them. 

Do abusers want to change?

This will of course depend on the abuser themselves, it will be more about what they do and not about what they say. We all know abusers can use false promises to continue the cycle of abuse, they will say things just to persuade the victim to stay in the relationship, yet they have no desire to change, this is evident when the abuse continues. 

However if an abuser genuinely wants to change, you will see the change in their behaviour and attitude. If they feel remorse for what they have done, they will take responsibility and hold themselves accountable. They will begin to treat the victim with kindness and respect and put an end to the cycle of abuse.

Should I stay to help and support an abuser change?

You must not forget the pain and suffering you have been through as part of this relationship, unfortunately you have been taught to prioritise the needs of the abuser before yourself. This must now change, you need to focus on yourself and your needs, the abuser is not your responsibility.  Remember if the abuser wants to genuinely make a change, it will take time and effort, something the abuser will need to take responsibility for. 

There is professional help available for abusers who are wanting to change, again it will be up to the abuser to reach out for this support and commit themselves.  You need to concentrate on trying to recover from the trauma of the abuse and build a happy life for yourself.

Can counselling and Anger Management help?

This will depend on the circumstances, for example if an abuser has anger issues and is being abusive because of uncontrollable anger then anger management classes may help. However most abusers commit abuse because of the need to control and gain power in a relationship, it is not uncontrollable anger. It is the abusers belief of being entitled to this power and control which suggests deeper underlying issues that may need to be addressed.  Counselling focuses on the power/control philosophy and accepting responsibility, whereas anger management focuses on learning to channel the anger in a healthy manner.  This is why it is probably better to for an abuser to engage in both counselling and anger management treatments for better and effective results.

Can change lead to a fixed or better relationship with a past-abuser?

If the abuser has changed, you may have a better relationship compared to your previous experience with them. However the hard truth is that there is a strong chance that they may abuse you again, in which case you should never let your guard down.  Remember to keep in mind that domestic violence often involves a pattern, whereby the abuser engages in violence, promises to change, but returns to their former violent ways.  

You must be able to evaluate whether the abuser has actually changed, the fact that they have engaged in counselling or anger management programmes may not be enough. You will need to see evidence of the abuser implementing new behaviours and attitudes learned from these treatments. 

If an abuser I know does not change, what should I do?

You must do what is right for you, the pain and trauma of staying with the abuser will be stronger than the pain of leaving. Remember the abuser has always had the choice of not abusing you, but has continued. You have probably lived in hope believing the abuser will change and the relationship would get better, but it won’t, in fact there’s a risk of it getting worse.

Now is the time to start thinking about yourself, you have the right to live peacefully and with respect, no one deserves to be abused. Free yourself from a relationship of misery and pain and focus on living a happy and healthy life, surrounded with people who genuinely care about you.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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