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This isn't me - but can an abusive man be rehabilitated

(39 Posts)
mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 10:17:56

Here's the story: I have a mate who is (I believe from reading around) abusive to his partner. Towards me he tries to intimidate and bully (real in your face stuff as in centimetres from my nose), but I stand up to that and just go don't you dare talk to me like that.

His partner J, is lovely, a gentle, kind person. When my wife went through Breast Cancer, without really knowing my wife, she took time out of work to support her through chemo sessions, when I had to stay with the children (DW's mum has cancer-phobia so hasn't gone near DW since diagnosis).

My mate has to date, cheated on her several times, that I know of. He also with-holds money from her. He's also intimated (but not gone into detail) that he may possibly have hit her - that's a hazy one.

As an example of controlling behaviour. I was having a chat with J one evening when she was talking about her career. She's been in a junior position for around 9 years and I suggested that given her skills and experience she should redress her CV and go for much more senior positions. My mate overheard the conversation, stormed up to me dragged me away by my arm and said quite categorically that J does not want to move up and he doesn't think she has the "ability" (those aren't his actual words) to do anything like I was suggesting. And no she doesn't want to hear what I've said. Forgive me if I may have phrased all of that wrong, but I came away with the distinct feeling it doesn't matter what she thinks he knows better.

I'm not one, for idly, standing by when something not quite right is going on. So I'm seeking thoughts and opinions from the greater mumsnet community.

So given this scenario, I've intervened and I've talked him around to understanding that he has a control/abuse problem and that he is perpetrating it against his partner. And get him to go to some type of therapy (which type I don't know but Respect is looking pretty good at the moment). But the whole field and subject area is confusing to me and I don't know which sort would be good to suggest.

I would prefer not to hear "chop his cock off and feed it to the dogs" - my grandmother's personal opinion, which isn't really real world.

So can it happen, can a man like above actually be rehabilitated? Is it possible in the real world? Or should I get DW to tell her to "LtB"

Finally, I know it may look like I'm sticking my nose in where its not supposed to be, But if J is going though an abusive relationship, my conscience says given what she did for DW I must be in the position to return the favour (does that make sense).


tingle1 Mon 14-Oct-13 10:22:35

you used the word rehabilitation. so yes, the concept exists. so, yes is the answer

Dahlen Mon 14-Oct-13 10:26:10

If you're prepared to stand up to your friend and tell him his behaviour is unacceptable and call him for what he is - an abuser - then good for you! If more people did this, it would be far less acceptable and far less prevalent.

Unfortunately, most abusers do not change. I think successful rehabilitation stands at about 5%, usually following lengthy therapy (i.e. years). What is more likely to happen with your friend is that he simply becomes more careful about what he says to you and will manipulate his wife into spending less time with your and your DW as he will see you both as an active threat to his ability to control his wife.

Likewise, J is unlikely to leave just on the say so of you and your DW, and telling her to LTB could be counterproductive if she's not ready to admit her relationship is abusive. Start off by encouraging her self-belief (e.g. that's she's really caring, that's she's good at x, y, z, that she could do that job, that her H should be so proud of her because you would be, etc). Also say that you don't approve of the way that her H treats her, why, and how you think he should treat her in a loving relationship. It could take a long time before she's ready to hear LTB, let alone act on it, but this is all part of the process.

Good for you OP. I wish there were more like you.

oranges Mon 14-Oct-13 10:27:06

There's something about this story that makes me a bit uneasy, bot can't quite put my finger on what. I think you have a lot on your plate already, with a very sick wife, and should focus on that. It doesnt' sound like you or your dw have much time to deal with someone elses marriage. If he is hitting her, tell her to call the police. Or point her towards this board.

Lweji Mon 14-Oct-13 10:39:42

You should thread carefully.

If you start supporting his wife, she may well start leaning on you for support, possibly emotionally as well, which would put you in a difficult position, not least of all with your wife, if she suspects something is up. And you may find yourself at the very least in an emotional affair.

If you work on your friend, he may well get worse with his wife but become more secretive about his abuse.

Regarding abusers, I don't think they will change unless they have a strong motive to change.

Sadly, I suspect the only reasonable outcome is for his wife to leave him.
She is probably, like many other women, expecting to be able to change him, and thinking that she may control the relationship by being nice and accommodating.

If anything, you and your wife should try and make sure you both will support her in any choice she makes regarding her marriage, and you will be on her side. And provide information about further support for her, being Women's Aid or the Freedom programme.

I think the best chance in this situation is for the friends and the wife to work together in not putting up with any controlling and abusive behaviour. She alone can choose to leave, but I don't think you will have an effect if she's not on board and has enough self-esteem.

mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 10:42:48

Dahlen - thank you very much for your response. And yes I am prepared to stand up. I'm greatly disturbed by a 95% failure rate - it sort of makes me think what is the point of bothering. But all in all, an attitude like that only allows it to carry on. How I go about doing anything - I don't know. My gut reaction is to stand up and put my foot down

oranges DW is well into remission the events I related occurred over three years ago with the support J gave. I'm sorry that somehow it makes you uneasy, and yes we don't really have the time to sticky beak into friends marriages, but I have this nagging though at the back of my head that i should do something... in the very least seek advice. Hence here.

Anniegetyourgun Mon 14-Oct-13 10:49:31

You've done a good thing there, OP, but don't hold your breath that it will make a huge difference as this kind of behaviour tends to be deeply ingrained. The wonderful Lundy Bancroft says that the rewards of abusive behaviour tend to be too great for most abusers to want, enough, to give it up. I'll say one thing, though: peer pressure, hearing from a mate that their behaviour is out of order, is more likely to have an effect than the sight of his wife in tears, unfortunately.

mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 10:50:26

Good point Lweji. A strong motive to change. To paraphase Ben Frankin A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

BTW DW knows all about this we discussed again last night. If anything she's the one who wants to support J. I'm gonna tackle A. her husband.

Frankly, I can't think of anything that I could use as a motivator to change behaviour... possibly the fact he want children but he is definably Old old old School when it comes gender roles and responsibility's. And he does drink a horrendous amount.

oranges Mon 14-Oct-13 10:54:26

I am glad your wife is recovering and it is really good that both of you recognise this is a problem and want to help. But agree, do tread carefully. And to whom will you "stand up and put your foot down" with?

The most you can do is let your mate know his behaviour is unacceptable, and build up his wife's confidence so she can either leave or make changes in her marriage .But you cannot 'rescue' her. And I do disagree, sorry Dahlem, with the advice telling her that YOU would be proud of her and HOW you think he should treat her in a loving relationship, because its not really relevant here.

Good luck and I wish you all the best,

Dahlen Mon 14-Oct-13 10:57:55

oranges - I accept what you're saying. I don't think I explained myself very well. It's not so much that I think the OP should compare their relationships, it's more that he should be making the point that a loving, healthy relationship works with people being proud of their partner's accomplishments and encouraging of their dreams. You're right in that it's probably best to talk about that generally, rather than making it personal though.

anon2013 Mon 14-Oct-13 10:58:04

Sounds like a total idiot. Why are you friends with him?. If someone grabbed me or threatened me as he has to you I wouldn't speak to them anymore.

They could be rehabilitated but it sounds to me like he's set in his ways if he doesn't even hide how much of a monster he is. Sorry OP

mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 11:10:54

bugger - this isn't going the way I hoped.
I've googled Lundy Bancroft and I think when I have a bit of cash 'llI buy a book or two thanks anniegetyourgun.

I guess I was looking for a concrete plan of how to go about stepping in and making a difference. I don't want to make matters worse.

Lweji Mon 14-Oct-13 11:14:51

Yes, it's not easy.
I know a couple in an abusive relationship, albeit slighly different from your friend's and, apart from supporting the wife, I'm not sure I can make any difference.

oranges Mon 14-Oct-13 11:15:52

"guess I was looking for a concrete plan of how to go about stepping in and making a difference". There isn't one, I'm afraid, or we would all be doing it to friends we care about in bad relationships. She has to find the strength to do it herself, knowing there are people who will support her when she needs it.

HardFacedCareeristBitchNigel Mon 14-Oct-13 11:19:38

Yes they can but they have to be willing to make that change. The courts sometimes order DV offenders to go on an Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme, I have received good feedback from the victims at how much their partners have significantly changed for the better after attending them. They usually have to do around 30 hours.

NB the men (only men can attend IDAP) HAVE to be willing to change and admit their guilt. I don't know whether this sort of thing can be accessed apart from as part of a criminal sentence.

Longtalljosie Mon 14-Oct-13 11:28:22

So no children yet? That's a real plus. I was in an abusive relationship and the real lightbulb moment for me is realising I did not want this to be the environment my potential future children grew up in...

I wonder if your DW (have you got children? Sorry if that's an insensitive question given your DW has had chemo...) can talk to her about that bit specifically. DV escalates when women are pregnant / have babies because the effort you put into keeping an abusive man sweet is exhausting and simply can't be done when you're not able to devote every waking thought to them...

JaceyBee Mon 14-Oct-13 11:28:37

I know this isn't relevant but cancer phobia?! Sounds like your mil could do with some therapy too!!

Have you actually told your friend that his behaviour is abusive? I would imagine that he is less likely to change the way he is, the best and more likely outcome would be that j will leave him. I would keep reinforcing that her relationship is abusive, she can't change him and she shouldn't have to put up with him.

tingle1 Mon 14-Oct-13 11:42:58

Please don't listen to spurious statistics regarding '5 %' of abusive men are rehabilitated. theres no basis for this

Anniegetyourgun Mon 14-Oct-13 11:44:07

ps I like the sound of your grandmother smile

mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 11:58:05

Some of the stuff I'm getting from this isn't making me confident in the present systems at all. A five percent success rate and only 30 hours. There is evidence to support that learning and mastering something new takes around 10000 hours and I'll apply that to learning and mastering non abusive behaviour. There is something desperately wrong there.

Ah! the MIL is an utter tool and for a Macmillan nurse to have cancer-phobia when her daughter is struck down with it... makes me think she grabbed any old excuse to not have to put any effort in with her daughter and grandchildren. But that's for another day.

Yes we have kids but before DW had cancer.

When it comes to children my mate intends to move back to Scotland and effectively isolate J from her family (him to me in conversation), which J has expressed to DW is not what she wants at all, she wants to stay close to her family. A has said she'll have no choice.

As a side bar chuckle on quite a miserable subject. When J accompanied DW to chemo it was just prior to J & A's marriage. J asked DW does sex get better once your married? DW replied it doesn't really change. J then pointed out that cos of A's drinking he was mr floppy most of the time and she really didn't enjoy it cos it wasn't that reciprocal. Later DW told me that it was just as well she didn't mention how much harder it gets once you've had children.

Anyway Thanks all I've probably said to much, and I'm quite disappointed, I guess cos the media only focuses on the success stories and not the failure rate. I was really under the impression that if I could do something and get him to attend a programme that it would change... naive and vainglorious of me to think that I could really make a difference.

Twinklestein Mon 14-Oct-13 13:56:32

I don't think it's either naïve or vainglorious to hope you could make a difference OP. I think it's a laudable sentiment, actually. It's just that it so happens that rehabilitation of abusive men is very tricky.

You can make a difference, as others have said, by being a good friend to your mate's partner. If she ever gets to the point that she's had enough & wants to leave - supportive friends would be invaluable.

Lweji Mon 14-Oct-13 14:02:25

Oh, dear.

Maybe you should send this woman in the direction of MN Relationships? ASAP.

I think the best you can do is to reinforce the idea that people can leave marriages and it's ok.
That it's not ok to be isolated, or bossed around.
That these men don't change. The idea that it's possible for him to change may ultimately prevent her from leaving him.
And that abusers get much worse once the victims have children, are isolated and don't work.

If they move she won't be isolated only from her family, but her friend network. Like you. sad

creativevoid Mon 14-Oct-13 14:24:28

I posted a thread with a similar title recently, in trying to decide what to do about my husband. I suggest you get J to read Lundy Bancroft's book (without her partner knowing). This was the book that made me understand what dh was doing to me. Seeing it all in black and white might be what she needs. And she can pm me - I can tell her how much worse it gets when the children arrive.

whatdoesittake48 Mon 14-Oct-13 14:38:33

My husband did change and thus far has really stuck to his new ways. But i suspect your friend may not. My reason is that he seems to be generally abusive - even to you. My H is not like that which is why he saw the difference in the way he treated me compared to others. it was a lightbulb moment for him to realise he had come to a place where he treated someone he loved in an awful way.

Your friend seems to use violence and abuse as a matter of course. He believes in that approach. I doubt he sees it as wrong.

You need to focus on J. She needs to realise what a loving marriage is and know that if she decides to walk out of the marriage she can walk into your home and be welcomed. She needs to know she has a safe place to go.

But - please please continue to pull him up each and every tine he is disrespectful to his wife. I couldn't bear it when people were polite and just looked a little shocked when my H said something out of order. But they never got involved. I felt like I imagined it or it wasn't that bad, because other people didn't seem to notice. that is why they carry on, because they see no harm to themselves or their other relationships.

Lend her the book and read it yourself. it is a revelation.

mirtzapine Mon 14-Oct-13 19:05:08

'K I hear what everyone is saying... I don't think I've jumped the gun over this. As others have pointed out A is a bit of a tool even to me. As I've said if he tries any of that stupidity with me I just stand tall look him straight in the eyes and tell him to piss right off. But then he knows that I've experienced enough beatings and knifing's to easily stand up to his hard man antics but that's by the by.

I will admit that I'm now very interested in this subject area, 30 hours cannot be enough to un-learn re-learn behaviours. I accept the Strong motivator... I know its on a case by case basis, but what could be the motivators to effectively change? As anniegetyourgun mentioned "the rewards of abusive behaviour ...[elided]... outweigh" is interesting. Ok not the best word, I find it interesting in the same way I find the mental landscape of torturers, Simon Baron-Cohens zero degrees of empathy, interesting or Daniel Goldhagens "Hitlers willing executioners" interesting.

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