Hyper-Sensitivity to the Perpetrator and the Likelihood of Returning to Abusive Relationships

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Abstract

Study questions: Although most women who are subjected to intimate partner violence attempt to leave their abusive partners, many return, and resultantly are at risk for even greater violence. Research to date has documented relations between several factors (income and economic dependence, frequency of intimate partner violence (IPV), fear of violence escalations, history of childhood abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms) and women’s returning to their abusive partners. Nevertheless, the contribution of women’s emotional bonds with their violent partners, known as identification with the aggressor (IWA), in explaining their perceived likelihood of going back to the relationship, has remained unclear. Subjects: The current study, conducted among 258 Israeli women who had left their violent partners, aimed to fill this void. Methods: An online survey was conducted. Demographic variables, history of childhood abuse, frequency of IPV, economic dependence on former partner, fear of future violence escalation, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, IWA, and perceived likelihood of returning to the relationship, were assessed via self-report questionnaire. Findings: Results indicated that two aspects of IWA—becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator and adopting the perpetrator’s experience—were related to women’s perceived likelihood of returning to the relationship. Furthermore, a logistic regression analysis indicated that only two factors—income and becoming hyper-sensitive to the perpetrator—uniquely contributed to explaining the likelihood of returning to abusive partners. Major implications: The current findings suggest that women’s tendency to be highly attuned to their partners’ feelings and needs, as a part of IWA, may impede their ability to permanently leave abusive relationships.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • domestic abuse
  • identification with the aggressor
  • intimate partner violence
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • revictimization

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