the last track we discussed Overcontrollers vs. Undercontrollers as well as Impulsive
vs. Instrumental batterers.
As you know, batterers find ways to rationalize
their abusive actions. Have you found, like I, that batterers tend to rationalize by blaming others in order to put themselves in a favorable "Nice Guy"
In this track, we will discuss what I term "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies."
I feel that these Positioning Strategies are motivated by the batterers' desire
to maintain the status quo. The purpose of maintaining the status quo is to minimize
the seriousness of their actions, or to deny their actions completely.
Two "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies"
like you, have found two recurring "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies":
one is Blaming the Battered and the second is Parent-Blaming. As you listen to
these strategies, ask yourself, how is a client you are currently seeing making
rationalizations to avoid change and to avoid accepting responsibility for his
Blaming the Battered
As you know, many male batterers attempt to
rationalize their violence by describing events as being "out of their control."
I term this a "Nice Guy Positioning Strategy." These "out of control"
events then lead to the batterers' violent outbursts. Batterers act like they
are the victim by saying "she asked for it!" Acting victimized provided
a means for Stan to distance himself from his abuse. Stan, age 27, was court ordered
to batterer therapy after an incident in which he strangled and choked his wife,
Janet, leaving her severely bruised and swollen. The incident occurred during
an argument about how Stan had hung up on Janet during a phone conversation.
our initial session, Stan stated, "I'm not trying to justify my violence
or anything, it's just
well, like Janet calls me at work. Now, I've told
her so many times: Don't call me at work! I've got people milling around my desk,
people waiting to use the phone, and I'm trying to look like everything's cool!
You know, and I'm saying to her, 'Janet, I can't talk now, I can't talk,' and
she goes on and on, and I say I'm going to hang up! and she goes on, so I finally just hang up. Then she's mad when I get home. If all she does is yell, fine! But
if she touches me, she's in real trouble!" After Stan hit Janet, he told
her, "You wanted it to come to this. You always wanted it to come to this."
of a batterer you are currently treating who denies his responsibility by blaming
the victim. Or think of a batterer who blames the situation. Do you need to increase
your awareness of your client's "Nice Guy Positioning Strategies?" At
the end of this track, I will discuss Scene by Scene Decoding, which is an intervention
I have found effective with batterer victim-blaming.
While it is often the case that batterers grow up
in abusive homes, think of a client you are currently treating who claims no personal
responsibility for his actions by placing blame on his upbringing. Stan was quick
to justify his violence. He stated, "My father ruled the house with an iron
hand. Boy, he would pound the crap out of me after he had a couple drinks. Once
he grabbed my arm and burned it with a cigarette to teach me a lesson for stumbling
over the footstool in the living room. Man, he definitely did not spare the rod!
So with a bastard like that for a father, who wouldn't have to let off steam every
now and then?"
of your Stan and specifically if he used parent-blaming in your last session.
I found that in my sessions with Stan, I needed to remain aware of Stan's attempts
to position himself in a victimized frame of reference. As you know, clients like
Stan can be quite skilled at eliciting and manipulating therapists' feelings in
a session. Information about Stan's childhood might be valuable in understanding
how Stan's past affects his current actions. However, I feel that Stan is overly
reliant upon the actions of his father as an excuse to "rightfully"
abuse. Obviously, Parent-Blaming is a strategy that enables him to maintain his
"Nice Guy" Position.
Scene by Scene Decoding
technique I found useful in dealing with these "Nice Guy Positioning
Strategies" is to use John Hamberger's intervention of "Scene by Scene
Decoding" from his book, Treating Men Who Batter. Here's how Hamberger's
intervention worked with Stan.
Step #1 - I began by showing a short videotape that illustrated
an instance of physical abuse.
Step #2 - Then I listed for the group some methods that were
used by the batterer in the video to minimize and/or deny his actions, or in other
words, to place blame elsewhere. As you are aware, domestic violence videos can
be found on the Internet by using a search engine, like Google.com, and entering
the keywords "domestic violence video" or "physical abuse video."
Step #3 - After
listing, I chose a member of the group, Stan in this case, to describe in as much
detail as he could a time when he was abusive toward Janet. He spoke about the
choking incident that had led to his arrest. I asked Stan plenty of questions
about the incident so that the group could get as realistic a description of Stan's
emotions and behaviors at the time of the incident as possible.
Step #4 - Then, I urged
the group to do the same Scene Decoding with Stan's situation that I had done
with the situation on the videotape. The group began to become more aware of the
possibility that Stan might be turning the story around in his mind and in group
sessions, to position himself into a more positive light.
The group started to
question whether Stan might be putting too much blame on Janet for nagging him
and for ignoring his request to talk at a later time when he wasn't working. They
began to understand, then, that perhaps Stan should have taken some responsibility himself for allowing his anger to lead to violence. Granted, this resulted in
a pressure situation for Stan. However, as you know, court-ordered clients for
whom I am writing a recommendation to the judge are motivated to participate by
the court mandate.
the next track we will discuss the batterer's shame and desire for control.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Harman, J. J., Kruk, E., & Hines, D. A. (2018). Parental alienating behaviors: An unacknowledged form of family violence. Psychological Bulletin, 144(12), 1275–1299.
Lannin, D. G., Bittner, K. E., & Lorenz, F. O. (2013). Longitudinal effect of defensive denial on relationship instability. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(6), 968–977.
Walsh, Z., Swogger, M. T., O'Connor, B. P., Chatav Schonbrun, Y., Shea, M. T., & Stuart, G. L. (2010). Subtypes of partner violence perpetrators among male and female psychiatric patients. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119(3), 563–574.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are two Nice Guy Positioning Strategies to increase your awareness
of in your next session? To select and enter your answer go to .