5.1 Individual/psychological approaches

The exertion of violence is seen as an individual behaviour, respectively dysfunctional behaviour caused directly by unresolved individual (traumatic) experiences in life. Domestic violence is seen as but one aspect of personality problems and impaired interpersonal relationships. Unresolved emotional trauma result in the development of a number of survival tactics to avoid negative emotions, including high-risk behaviours such as substance abuse, violence and controlling behaviours. Therefore, not the violent behaviour but its causes are treated. The perpetrator is viewed as an ill person who needs to be healed.This approach has developed various perpetrator typologies depending on ICD and/or DSMR. The most typical are “anti-social”, “narcistic” and borderline personalities.

Perpetrators do not necessarily need to show disorders but several aspects of those personalities (e.g. Finkelhor 1988, Godenzi 1996, Gondolf 2002). A main risk factor of later delinquency is the experience of violence in childhood either as victims, witnesses or perpetrators. According to Godenzi, a lot of perpetrators are deeply dependent of their partners. This circumstance leads to controlling behaviour. Further, perpetrators use techniques to “neutralize” their violent actions and thus suspending the negative effects of their deeds: they reinterpret their behaviour, minimizing or justifying it, blaming and discrediting the victim. Many of them are not aware of their lapse and refuse any responsibility for their wrongdoing. Moreover, they see their partner – the woman – as accountable for those incidences (Logar 2002).

A quarter of perpetrators are dependent on alcohol but at the same time one in five interviewed claimed that they do not drink at all only rarely (Gondolf 2002). According to Gilchrist (2003), 73% of questioned perpetrators admitted drinking alcohol before violent action.

Finally, Gilchrist et.al. (2003) link certain types of perpetrators with certain violent behaviour: The antisocial/narcistic type in general uses intimidation and coercion as well as psychological violence and male privileges. The more antisocial type (47% of cases) shows lack of empathy for the victim, behaves more “macho”-like and has already been convicted of criminal offences. He “neutralizes” his violent behaviour by minimizing it and blaming the victim. The more narcistic type shows a tendency to narcisism and paranoia. They do not show overt “macho” behaviour but at the same time try to answer the desired way. In Gilchrist’s research, this type of perpetrator occurred in 13% of the cases. The borderline/emotional dependent type tries more to isolate the partner and threatens to hurt or kill her. This type further shows a high degree of interpersonal dependency and anger; he suffers from depression and anxiety states and blames others for his situation. Further, there is a high probability of the experience of physical or sexual abuse in childhood. 28% of the examined perpetrators of domestic violence belong to this personality type. Reasons for violent behaviour were jealousy, separation and themes around the children.

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