Domestic Violence Perpetrators Shown to Overestimate Incidents

In terms of many difficult and undesirable parts of life –such as alcohol and substance abuse, compulsive behaviors, and more–, people often overestimate the rate at which certain issues occur. This effect may be especially prominent among people who commit the acts in question. This connection has been significantly show for many psychological and behavioral concerns in the past, but recently, a research team at the University of Washington has found that men involved in domestic violence incidents are likely to believe that such issues occur far more frequently than they actually do.

The research team worked with a group of over one hundred men, all of whom had committed one of seven behaviors defined as violent against their partner within the past ninety days. The men were surveyed as to their estimation of the frequency of events such as slapping or hitting a partner, shoving, throwing an item at a partner, and forcing a partner to have sex without consent. The results showed that the men were likely to estimate a significantly higher frequency than was found through checking with data from the national Violence Against Women survey supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The discrepancies between how often domestic violence attacks occur and how often the men believed they occurred points to the idea that people feel better about doing things that they perceive as being normal, the researchers note. Through creating the idea that many other men commit violence against their romantic partners, the men may be justifying their own behavior to themselves, something which has been shown to be the case across a wide spectrum of actions and tendencies. The research, while needing further study and refinement to provide a more comprehensive data set, may help therapists and counselors better understand how to help those involved in domestic violence overcome such issues.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • meg


    March 14th, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    That’s interesting- I would think that abusers would see themselves as not really being abusive at all and that they would underestimate the actions.

  • Nate T.

    Nate T.

    March 14th, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    It is surprising to hear that they overestimate the frequency of such incidents…because that should actually make them regret more!

  • Sugarlove


    March 14th, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Once is one time too many! If you read it right what they are overestimating is how “normal” it is to be violent towards your spouse. They think most guys think it’s okay to slap a woman around when they feel like it and it’s common. That’s the unrealistic overestimation, not that they are actually less violent than they really are.

    “Those men overestimated by two to three times the actual rates of seven behaviors ranging from throwing something at a partner to rape,, according Clayton Neighbors, lead author of a paper to be published in a spring issue of the journal Violence Against Women.”



    March 14th, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    The report above says the comparison was done between what the perpetrators admitted with the data from the national Violence Against Women survey. What I think has happened here is its not that they overestimate the incidents. Rather, the incidents are not always reported! This is something very scary and domestic violence needs to be curtailed by a lot of awareness campaigns and also assertion of women’s rights.

  • Nathaniel


    March 14th, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Of course they think it’s not a big deal. That helps them justify behaving like animals in their own minds. Some guys even think it makes them more macho. I’ve met a few like that and they nauseate me. Yeah, you’re a real tough guy, beating up a woman not even half your size and strength.

  • sammy


    March 15th, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    Maybe it’s the guilt that they feel that makes them overestimate the number of incidents that they are involved with.

  • Steyn


    March 15th, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    Hmm…maybe this very thing can be used to show the perpetrators that they are wrong and need to stop…to make them realize how often they are doing wrong…maybe this will help,maybe this won’t…but there is always hope and there is no ahrm in trying.

  • jason gillespie

    jason gillespie

    March 16th, 2010 at 12:46 AM

    if these people actually overestimate the occurances of their cruelty, then why do they not stop?
    i think the reason they overestimate it is only because they are not very apologetic about it and therefore find no harm in it…that is exactly why they do not stop even through their over estimation.

  • Terri B

    Terri B

    March 16th, 2010 at 5:20 AM

    Been a victim of abuse- one time is too many, and the longer they can be put away for it the better!

  • Brandii


    March 17th, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    These thugs don’t think of themselves as violent. And so many hide it so well. They go to work and everyone thinks they are a great guy without a violent bone in their body. When I found out a co-worker of mine was hitting his wife, I couldn’t believe it. He was a real Jekyll and Hyde. It’s not a side of them they can’t control or hide because I never saw him swing a punch or get aggressive with anyone at work. Obviously he took all that out on his poor wife when he got home.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Elizabeth R.

    March 17th, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Brandii, if Jekyll could control it during working hours, he sure could at home. It’s a question of wanting to. Okay, maybe it’s not that simple but I don’t see why he couldn’t hold that back then too. You can’t tell me he wasn’t tempted to hit someone at work ever. Ever?

  • Dionne S.

    Dionne S.

    March 18th, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    “Been a victim of abuse- one time is too many, and the longer they can be put away for it the better!”

    Hear, hear Terri! May the day arrive when every court thinks the same and acts upon that.

  • Rosalee


    March 18th, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    I wonder how often drink is involved? Not that I’m making excuses for such terrible behavior. I’ve seen normally nice guys turn into very nasty pieces of work that would fight with their shadow when they get drunk. It’s frightening.

  • Craig H

    Craig H

    March 20th, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    If the justice system wouldn’t treat it as lightly as they do, domestic violence wouldn’t be repeated over and over and women wouldn’t need to suffer revenge beatings when they get released after a slap on the wrist. Do it once, spend a few years in jail. No excuses, no whining, no lawyers standing up and saying that you’re a pillar of the community. (Rich guys do it too you know). It’s a myth that this is the province of the poor. Zero tolerance.

  • Vivian


    March 30th, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Zero tolerance, yes! Tough sentencing like that would also increase the number of reported cases. What holds some back is that very fear of suffering the consequences of involving the police. If you knew the abuser would be put away long enough for you to get yourself together enough to move away before they ever got out, wouldn’t you be more confident about calling the cops? I would.

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