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minimizing-abuse

Blame Shifting and Minimizing: There’s no EXCUSE for Abuse

minimizing-abuse

Why do we make excuses? You tell a friend that you’re busy with something else because you’d rather just put your feet up and watch the game. You tell yourself that eating that pint of ice cream was fine because you went running the day before so that cancels it out.

To some extent, everyone makes excuses.

When it comes to people making justifications about their unhealthy actions, it can be difficult to see through these excuses or recognize them for what they are.

Why do we want to believe the excuses a partner makes when they’re treating us badly? Sometimes the justifications sound really good. Especially when we’re looking for something — anything — to help make sense of how the person we care for is acting toward us. It’s normal to want to rationalize what’s going on, because abuse is pretty irrational.

Abusive partners are also skilled at coercion and manipulation. They use excuses to make you feel like what’s happening is your fault.

Let’s take a look at common excuses that abusive partners use and talk about why these, like all “reasons,” aren’t justification for violent and hurtful behavior.


  • “I was drunk/I was using drugs.”

Substance abuse isn’t an excuse for abuse. There are people who drink and use drugs and don’t choose to abuse their partners. Ask yourself: how does your partner act when they’re drunk around their friends? How do they treat you when they’re sober?

A statistics teacher would tell you, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two things happen together (like drinking and violence), it does not mean that one causes the other.

  • “I control you because I care about you.”

Acting jealous, controlling or possessive is not a way to show someone you care. 

  • “You got in my face/made me mad/got me wound up on purpose, and I had no other choice. I can’t control it.”

Stress and anger issues don’t cause abusive behavior. An abusive partner’s actions are always a choice that they make. Ask yourself: how does your partner react when they are angry with other people? Would they fly off the handle at their boss? Chances are probably not, because they know they can’t get away with that behavior around others.

  • I have mental health issues or a personality disorder — ex. I’m bipolar, I have PTSD.”

There are people have these mental health issues and don’t act abusive toward their partners. If an abusive partner is dealing with mental health problems, have they been diagnosed with them? Additionally, mental health issues can be managed in certain ways, like with medication.

  • “I grew up in a violent home where I experienced or witnessed abuse”

There are a lot of people who grow up in violent homes who choose not to abuse their partners. Many choose this because of how they grew up — they know how it felt to live in that situation and they want healthier relationships for their partner and their family.


Do you find yourself making these excuses for how you act toward your partner? Or, on the other hand, do any of these excuses sound similar to what you’ve heard your partner tell you when they’re treating you badly?

Being able to recognize excuses for what they are — blames, minimizations, denials — can be a step toward realizing that abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end. Remember: partners who are abusive always have a choice about their words and actions.

We’re here to talk: 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

minimizing violence

Excuses, Excuses…

Just as people make excuses for their own poor behavior, it seems to be human nature that we often make excuses for others as well — in particular, our significant others. Have you ever found yourself apologizing for the actions of your partner? “Sorry about that, they’re just tired and had a really long day,” or, “They don’t mean to act like that, they’ve just been stressed at work.”

Has a family member or friend ever directly asked you about the way your partner treats you? How did you respond? Did you come up with an excuse to put them at ease — or, to put your own mind at ease?

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, making justifications for a partner’s behavior is common. When your partner continually makes excuses for how they treat you, it’s only normal that you may start making similar excuses and echoing their sentiments.

What do these excuses sound like?

“It’s my fault. I made a mistake and did something that upset them.”

“They said that I’m controlling. I drove them to act this way.”

“They’re just stressed/tired/having a bad day/kidding.”

“They aren’t usually like this.”

“It’s not that bad. At least they don’t hit me.”

“They didn’t hit me that hard. It could be worse.”

“They weren’t always like this.”

“They were abused as a child/they grew up in an abusive family — it’s all they know.”

“They just have a drug/alcohol problem.”

“They’re bipolar — it’s a medical condition.”

“I’m just overreacting. They say I’m too emotional.”

Why do we do this?

If your partner is treating you in an unhealthy way, it’s often really difficult to acknowledge what’s happening. It’s hard to believe that someone we care for and love could hurt us. Oftentimes a relationship doesn’t begin badly — so it’s confusing when one can change so drastically.

We may also be in denial about what’s actually happening.

It can be tough to stop making excuses for a partner who is treating you badly, but beginning to accept what’s happening is the first step toward holding them accountable for their own behavior.

You are not responsible for your partner’s bad behavior. Your partner’s hurtful words and actions are their own choice — there is always a choice.

If you’re in a relationship where your partner is emotionally or physically abusive and you find yourself making excuses for them, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE. Our advocates can confidentially speak with you more about this and discuss safety and plans for the future.

power and control wheel

Taking a Spin Around the Power and Control Wheel

We recently debunked the myth that abuse can be described as a cycle. If we can’t describe it that way, is there a more accurate way to talk about abuse?

Yes! It’s called The Duluth Model, and at its core is the Power & Control Wheel.

Relationship violence is a combination of a number of different tactics of abuse that are used to maintain power and control — which are the words in the very center of the wheel. The center is surrounded by different sets of behaviors that an abusive partner uses in order to maintain this power and control.

These sets of behaviors are:

  • Coercion and threats
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming
  • Using children
  • Economic abuse
  • Male privilege

A lot of these behaviors can feel subtle and normal — often unrecognizable until you look at the wheel in this way. Many of these can be happening at any one time, all as a way to enforce power within the relationship.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.

How and why do we use the power and control wheel?

Our advocates use the wheel to help teach callers about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. It shows a victim that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and that these tactics of maintaining power and control are common to abusers.

We also use the wheel to help other callers like friends, family members or even someone who may identify as abusive to better understand the complicated components of abuse and the many forms it can take. This can be really helpful in explaining the difficulties and dangers of leaving an abusive relationship.

To learn more about the Power and Control Wheel, visit the Home of the Duluth Model online.

life after abuse

Dating After Domestic Violence

Dating after domestic violence can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you might have more trouble connecting with potential romantic partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might find that your perception of what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship was warped by your abuser.

If you’re considering beginning a new relationship after experiencing domestic violence, here are some things that you should consider.

Move on Before You Start Something New

Domestic violence can leave behind physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Before you start a new relationship, make sure that you have begun to cope with the things that you experienced in your past abusive relationship. Seek counseling to help you work through your emotional pain and connect with your local domestic violence program to get support. Sever ties with your ex if possible (this is a bit more complicated when you have children with them) and if not possible, develop a system for safe interaction. Before you begin a new relationship, make sure that you are over your old one.

Educate Yourself

Learning about what domestic violence is and what the red flag warning signs for abuse are can help you find a healthy relationship. Make a list of healthy relationship characteristics and respectful partner traits and look for a relationship that matches with those standards.

Trust Your Instincts

If you begin dating and start to notice things about your partner that make you uncomfortable, if you start seeing red flag behaviors in your relationship or if your partner begins doing some of the same unhealthy things that your ex used to do, take heed. Don’t minimize questionable behaviors or write them off as personality traits. If you feel like something isn’t right, then trust your instincts. If you feel safe talking to your new partner about what you’ve noticed, then do that. See how they react to being confronted — that will show you a lot about who they are. If you want to talk to someone about the things that you’ve noticed, you can always call us to get feedback.

Practice Safe Dating

Regardless of whether you’ve been in an abusive relationship before or not, practicing safe dating is important when beginning a relationship. Making sure that you meet your partner at the location of your first few dates, rather than letting them drive you, spending time together in public at first and making sure that someone you trust knows your whereabouts are all ways to stay safe when dating. This will also help you to know that you can trust your partner as the relationship becomes more serious.

Take Things Slow

This may go hand in hand with practicing safe dating, but it’s worth saying again. Take your time in getting to know your partner and letting them know you. Develop a trusting partnership where both of you are comfortable expressing your needs, wants and thoughts. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that both of you are happy. Treat your partner with respect and demand that they do the same for you. Don’t rush into a relationship. Take your time.

If you are considering dating after domestic violence, feel free to give us a call. Our advocates can talk with you about what you’re feeling and about any concerns that you have: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

a day in the life of an advocate

A Day in the Life

It was summer in Austin, Texas and the temperature was hovering close to three-digits. Mary, an advocate at The Hotline who has been with the organization for five years, was sitting in her cubicle. The air conditioner was blowing but she could still feel the heat blaring in from the full-length windows to her left.

She had been at work for the past seven hours and was counting down the minutes until the end of her shift. By then, she’d answered close to 30 calls from people seeking support, information and aid. She was tired and emotionally drained.

She looked at the print of a landscape that she has pinned to her gray cubicle wall and put her head in her hand. She imagined that the white noise (created by a discretely hidden machine across the room) was the sound of the river pictured in her landscape.

Her phone rang and she was pulled back into reality. She took a deep breath. She answered.

The caller was an adult woman in her mid-thirties. She lived somewhere on the upper east coast in a home that she bought and paid for herself. She had a good job and was proud of her life. She described herself as being strong in her faith.

The caller explained that she had been dating her boyfriend for several months. “Well, kind of dating,” she said.

Mary asked what she meant by “kind of.”

The caller told Mary that she would describe their relationship as dating, but that her partner often minimized the relationship. He told her that she wasn’t his girlfriend and that they weren’t together. The caller told Mary that even though her partner said these things, he asked her to spend the night on a regular basis, got jealous when she talked to other men and called her all the time. She was confused.

Mary asked the caller why she thought that her partner was saying these things to her when he was clearly acting in a way that contradicted them.

The caller explained that she refused to sleep with her partner and that had angered him. She said that she felt uncomfortable, like she was violating her faith, engaging in sexual relations with a man that she was not committed to. She didn’t know if she should sleep with him because they are dating – if doing so would change his attitude – or if she should continue to abstain.

Mary told her that her feelings were completely justified and that she shouldn’t do anything that she was uncomfortable with. She explained that what the caller was describing sounded a lot like controlling behavior. She told the caller that her partner might be minimizing the relationship in order to convince her to sleep with him. She then took time to explain the dynamics of relationships – abusive relationships in particular –  and talk with the caller about other things that were happening in the relationship.

After spending 15 minutes on the phone with Mary, the caller sounded more confident and comfortable in her relationship. She told Mary that she understood that her partner was attempting to manipulate her by making their relationship seem less than it was. She understood that that manipulation was a sign that her relationship was unhealthy.

She thanked Mary for speaking with her and then ended the call.

Most calls that Mary takes aren’t straightforward or easy. She deals with pain and anger and sadness on a daily basis. She fights shrinking domestic violence program budgets and long waitlists at shelters every day as she tries to find aid for callers. After all of the adversity that she faces, hearing a caller tell Mary that “she is awesome” is something that she will hold on to.