I ran groups for men to help them stop abusive behavior for many years. I told the men in my groups that our goal was to stop and always avoid any form of physical abuse.

Soon after I began to provide batterer intervention services, our local shelter asked me to give a presentation to the women in the shelter programs on my groups for abusive men. I explained the curriculum: how I taught men about the dangers of power and control tactics, the importance of personal accountability, and the necessity of being in charge of our behavior no matter what our partner does. I told the women that the goal of batterer intervention was to stop physical violence.

To my surprise, the women told me that emotional abuse—put-downs, name-calling, threats, yelling, accusation—was an equally if not more serious form of battering. I learned from them that when men said “I yell at my wife, but at least I’m not a batterer,” they’re letting themselves off the hook. They are minimizing the damage that their emotional abuse does to their partners.

If you have been emotionally abusive, you should seek help. Take a look at our book, Stop Hurting the Woman You Love: Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Behavior, find out about our extended sessions, and get into a domestic abuse support group with a professional who is trained and specializes batterer intervention.