I was forwarded an article today on CNN about a “reformed” batterer. I almost didn’t read it. I thought it might be some Pollyanna take on domestic violence where the author asserts “Golly gee, isn’t it great this guy has stopped being abusive? Isn’t this some heartwarming and wonderful??” Except that for me heartwarming and wonderful aren’t the right words to use when someone was abusive in the first place. And except that more often than not, people who are abusive don’t change. Even when they go to Batterers’ Intervention Programs. Their abuse usually shifts post-intervention and may be more insidious and harder to pick up on. Or maybe they’ve stopped screaming at their partner but now employ the silent treatment when they don’t get their ways. That is not really an improvement.
But I kept reading. And I’m glad I did. This article, which can be viewed here, really delves into the mentality of an abusive person and the reality of how few change and that the reason they don’t change is not because they can’t but because they won’t (i.e., they chose not to because their abusive behavior allows them to have the last word, get their way, etc). The author even wonders if perhaps the story of the “reformed” man at the center of her article is too good to be true. I share this concern. I mean he calls his ex who he abused his “best friend” whereas it’s clear she doesn’t feel that way, even if she does see him as a friend. It makes me wonder “how many other boundaries is he pushing?” Not saying he is or isn’t. Just saying, given the context, it is curious and gives me pause.
I’m glad I kept reading because I’m thankful for how realistic the article is. Reality is people chose to harm their partners and this choice stems from very misogynistic beliefs. And that reality is terrifying. But minimizing, ignoring or sugarcoating that reality will not make it go away. Facing it, bravely and gently and at a modest pace, is what will change this reality.