This resource is to dispel the myth that victims become abusers, and provide resources for people who are afraid that they may one day become abusive because of they are victims of abuse. For more resources if believe you may be being abused check out this post. If you are worried that you might be an abuser or were an abuser in the past, check out this list.
The “cycle of abuse”, where victims become perpetrators is a myth used to shame and silence victims of abuse. Most victims of abuse do not go on to become perpetrators of abuse, yet this idea is repeated pretty frequently. One issue is that victims of abuse have worse outcomes than their peers in many other respects, frequently suffering chronic illnesses (both mental and physical) and having higher likelihood of issues such as substance abuse and criminality. Victims of abuse and trauma are also far more likely to be retraumatized and experience multiple abusive relationships, because they lack positive relationship models. (See previous post for more info). Many victims internalize abuse, and begin to believe they deserve or are the cause of their abuse, which is why its so important to understand that they are not likely perpetrators. Abusive partners may use this internalized guilt to cause individuals to believe they are being abusive in order to control them, as a gas lighting tactic. An abuser might convince an individual to isolate themselves, or that they “owe” their abuser because the victim is the one who is being abusive, or that they are being “mutually abusive” -this is a myth.
Its natural to be worried about this topic, and having the emotional capability to not want to abuse as in important indicator that an individual will not be an abuser. Anyone can benefit from recognizing that this is a common problem, and engaging with emotional skill building to avoid becoming an abuser. To help people who want to build these skills, I’m including various links to positive strategies.
Below, I’m listing resources that break down the statistics in greater detail. Some are gendered, some are not, but I think the message is pretty clear: being abused does not raise the likelihood of abusing, and getting support and treatment is always important but also reduces the risk of perpetrating abuse and self-abuse.
An important note is that a lot of the research conducted with male sexual abusers focuses on perpetrators that have already been caught, which actually skews the information towards perpetrating and yet the information still support the fact that most people who are victims of abuse are not perpetrators of abuse.
This link also has info on how to avoid being abusive, recognize warning signs, and how to address them in positive ways.
This link has more detail about the statistics, and link back to previous site.
For many people, abuse leads to negative feelings, depression and anger, all of which can lead to worse outcomes and potentially disrupt other relationships. Getting support and strategies to deal with these feelings is incredibly important and helpful.
Getting therapy can be very difficult. Its often stigmatized and can be expensive. However, there are many care providers who will see patients on a sliding scale if there’s no insurance. Many schools provide mental health resources, and its often covered by insurance. Getting support to begin therapy from others who have similar experiences can be valuable as well. For people looking for support networks, there are many online groups for specific issues such as survivorship and mental illnesses.