In 2007, Lundy Bancroft, arguably the most knowledgable and experienced social scientist in the area of domestic violence,* listed characteristics of abuser’s repentance. He did not call it “repentance,” but that is evidently what it is. He called it, “Checklist for Assessing Change in Men Who Abuse Women.”
Every expert (including Bancroft) I have read, agrees: Abusers rarely change their stripes. This is true in both the business and at home. Whether it is a marital abuse counselor or a business management expert, abuse is about power and it is uncommon for them to repent.
However, there are still streams of light.
There are abusers at home and in the office who change.
After his work with hundreds of abusers, consider Lundy’s list of what a “changed” abuser looks like – if they do change:
- Admits fully to what he has done
- Stops excuses
- Stops all blaming of her
- Makes amends
- Accepts responsibility (recognizing that abuse is a choice)
- Identifies patterns of controlling behavior, admitting their wrongness
- Identifies the attitudes that drive his abuse
- Accepts that overcoming abusiveness will be a decades-long process, not declaring himself cured
- Does not start to say, “so now it’s your turn to do your work,” does not use change as a bargaining chip
- Does not demand credit for improvements he has made
- Does not treat improvements as chips or vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (e.g. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so why are you making such a big deal about it?”)
- Develops respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
- Carries his weight
- Shares power
- Changes how he is in highly heated conflicts
- Changes how he responds to his partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
- Changes his parenting
- Changes his treatment of her as a parent
- Changes his attitudes towards females in general
- Accepts the consequences of his actions (including not feeling sorry for himself about those consequences, and not blaming her or the children for them)
These assessments can easily be contextualized to the work environment. Here are a few:
- Will the leader of the organization admit his failures?
- Does he take responsibility for his actions?
- Does he genuinely apologize for his abusive behavior to subordinates?
- Does he catch himself when he begins to heat up?
- Does he treat his subordinates as God’s image-bearers who have value and valuable things to say?
- Does he give credit to those who have done the work?
Just recently I heard of a case where an emotionally and physically abusive man was getting “good marks” in his court-ordered batterer’s counseling. He has shown none of the marks listed by Bancroft to his ex-wife and children as he continually bombards her with legal challenges, lies, and blame-shifting.
It is extraordinarily frustrating to all who know the situation that the counselor does not appear to have any real understanding of abuse. This is not unusual to the business world where few understand the destruction of an abusive boss. Toxic leaders continue traumatizing their targets as others stand by making excuses.
That is why we exist.
* Lundy Bancroft had the first support group for abusive men. He has studied and treated these men for many years. He has worked with hundreds of batterers in jail. http://lundybancroft.com/articles/checklist-for-assessing-change-in-men-who-abuse-women/