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Signs he/she has changed

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This list uses 'he' in the interests of readability, but do apply to either gender. Often, posters want to know how to tell if their partner is really changing versus what constitutes a hoover (attempts to suck you back in and under their control). This list is a good guide and quite helpful in evaluating the changes instituted by an abuser.

Signs That He Has Changed

Reprinted with permission

Brenda Branson Copyright © 2004


He is willing to wait however long it takes for her trust in him to be rebuilt, and does not pressure her to forgive or reconcile until she is ready.

He does not say or do things that threaten or frighten her.

He listens to and respects her opinion, even if he disagrees.

She can express anger or frustration toward him without being punished or abused.

He respects her “no” in all situations, including physical contact.

He does not prevent her from spending time with friends and family, and does not punish her later.

He is willing to continue counseling as long as necessary.

He takes responsibility for his actions, and does not blame her for his bad behavior.

He is kind and attentive instead of being demanding and controlling.

When he becomes frustrated or angry, he does not take it out on his wife or children.

When he fails, he admits his mistake and takes responsibility for changing abusive behavior.

He admits to his abusive behavior, and stops trying to blame or cover up.

He acknowledges that all the abuse was wrong, and identifies all the ways he used to justify his abusive behavior.

He acknowledges that his abusive behavior was not a loss of control, but a choice on his part.

He recognizes and is able to verbalize the effects of his abuse on his spouse and children.

He identifies attitudes of entitlement or superiority, and talks about the tactics he used in maintaining control. He replaces distorted thinking with a more positive and empathetic view.

He consistently displays respectful behavior toward his wife and children.

He wants to make amends for the harm he has caused.

He is committed to not repeating his past behavior, and realizes it will be a life-long process.

He is willing to hear feedback and criticism, is honest about his failures, and is willing to be held accountable for abusive thinking and behavior.

“Beware of the temptation to gauge change by means of the perpetrator’s church-going behavior. Going to church is not good enough . . . does not prove that he is no longer going to hurt her.” —Woman-Battering

He Has Not Changed If . ..

He blames her or others for his behavior.

He uses guilt to manipulate her into dropping charges or keeping silent.

He does not faithfully attend his treatment program.

He pressures her to let him move back in before she is ready.

He will not admit he was abusive.

He convinces others that she is either abusive or crazy.

He demands to know where his spouse is and whom she is with.

He uses her behavior as an excuse to treat her badly.

He continues to use sarcasm or verbal abuse, talk over his wife, and shows disrespect or superiority.

He does not respond well to complaints or criticism of his behavior when he slips back into abusive behavior.

He continues to undermine her authority as a parent, and her credibility as a person.

His mindset about women has not changed, even though he avoids being abusive.

He criticizes his spouse for not realizing how much he has changed.

“Completion of a batterer’s intervention program class by a man does not mean his victim is safe or that he has stopped being abusive. While men may learn tools for acting nonviolently, research indicates that many men continue to be abusive, even if they change their tactics.” —Embracing Justice: A Resource Guide for Rabbis on Domestic Violence

If you go back too soon, the abuse will be worse and leaving again will be harder.

Steps to Change

1. Admit fully to his history of psychological, sexual and physical abusiveness. Denial and minimizing need to stop, including discrediting your memory of what happened.

2. Acknowledge that the abuse was wrong, unconditionally. He needs to identify the justifications he used, including the ways he blamed you, and talk in detail about why his behaviors were unacceptable, without defending them.

3. Acknowledge that his behavior was a choice, not a loss of control.

4. Recognize the effects his abuse has had on you and on your children, and show empathy for those. He needs to talk IN DETAIL about the impact that his abuse has had, including fear, loss of trust, anger, etc. And he needs to do this without feeling sorry for himself or talking about how hard the experience has been for him.

5. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviors and entitled attitudes. He needs to speak in detail about the day to day tactics of abuse he has used, identify his underlying beliefs and values that drove those behaviors, such as considering himself entitled to constant attention.

6. Develop respectful behaviors and attitudes to replace the abusive ones he is stopping.

7. Reevaluate his distorted image of you, replacing it with a more positive and empathic view. He has to recognize that he's focused on and exaggerated his grivances against you. He needs to compliment you and pay attention to your strengths and abilities.

8. Make amends for the damage he has done. He has to have a sense that he has a debt to you. He can start payment by being consistently kind and supportive, putting his own needs on the back burner for a couple of years, fixing what he has damaged, and cleaning up the emotional and literal messes he has caused.

9. Accept the consequences of his actions. He should stop blaming you for problems that are the result of his abuse.

10. Commit to not repeating his abusive behaviors. He should not place any conditions on his improvement - such as saying he won't call you names as long as you don't raise your voice.

11. Accept the need to give up his privileges and do so. Stop double standards, stop flirting with other women, stop taking off with his friends while you take care of the children. He also is not the only one allowed to express anger.

12. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a life-long process. He cannot claim that his work is done by saying, "I've changed, but you haven't." or complain that he is sick of hearing about his abuse.

13. Be willing to be accountable for his actions, both past and future. He must accept feedback and criticism and be answerable for what he does and how it affects you and the children.

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