Are there any statistics regarding abusers reforming?

Hard to believe - but not really! All the data available is - perhaps intentionally anecdotal.


It is commonly agreed upon that therapy is the only way that an abuser will change his ways. While an abuser may stop one kind of abuse, it is usually then replaced by another kind of abuse (physical that becomes verbal, sexual that becomes physical). It is very seldom that the abuse will stop by itself.

What is not agreed upon is, however, what kind of therapy is best. Psychotherapists usually claim that long-term individual therapy is the only way to alleviate abuse as only in individual therapy is it possible to go through the traumatic events that have caused abusive tendencies to develop.

The only reliable statistics are from specialised group therapy. Those running group therapy sometimes claim that individual therapy may be detrimental as it can reenforce narcissistic tendencies and prevent the abuser from taking responsibility (I only abuse because my mother hit me when I was five). Group therapy enthusiasts also claim that the main cause of behaviour are controlling attitudes and a deeply held belief that abuse is okay for what ever reason. This belief can only be dealt with through group therapy.

The problem comes with cases where the abuser is too depressed or suffers from such low self-esteem that he cannot attend a group. In these cases, antidepressants may be necessary.

Couple therapy is not advised unless the abuser has stopped being abusive (after a program) and the couple therapy is used as a way for the victim to air out her grievances. Not only can the abuser use couple therapy as an extension of abuse, but as the victim is often more messed-up then the abuser, the abuser can show off how together they are in comparison. The first impressions of therapists often favour the abuser, who can be charming, calm and collected while the victim may seem hysterical and overly sensitive.

As the statistics are lacking, it is only possible to estimate. From what I have read and know, I would estimate about 50% of men who freewillingly attend a well-run group therapy session will end abuse. However, this rather high estimate is only for men who go to the therapy because they themselves want to (not out of pressure from loved ones), stay for the duration of the course, and are in a well-run program.

However, a similar percentage of abusers in general may be somewhere between 1-5%.

Why? Becauseby far the most abusers do not take responsibility for their actions, nor do they really try to change their behaviour. Rather they have their victim trapped in a cycle where after each episode, the abuser will apologise and say he will change. However, when it comes to doing something about the abuse, few will actually take steps.

If abuse is coupled with narcissistic traits, recovery is impossible as the abuser does not really feel like he's done anything wrong.

How can you tell when an abuser is ready to make a change?

If the abuser is serious about changing his ways, he will: 1) recognise that he is abusive-- and also use the term "abusive" 2) go to group therapy without making excuses (too busy at work, too difficult etc) 3) recognise that the victim will be uncomfortable with him and allow the victim space (so no: I can't do my therapy without you) 4) he will understand that this is a change that he wants to make for himself, not for the victim or anyone else. 5) he will make a long-term commitment to change (no going back).

An abuser is not ready, if: 1) He only talks about change but does not take any action 2) He says he can only change if the victim changes with him 3) He claims that he does not need to go to a group because of a variety of excuses including that it's for worse cases or unnecessary as he only abused when drunk and now he's sober so there's no problem. 4) He minimises his actions. As in: I only hit you but it's not that bad.

Be aware: no-one can change another person. If you are in an abusive relationship, give your abuser info about group therapy for abusers in your area, but if they are not interested, it's best to leave.

Leaving may jolt the abuser to realise what he has done, which may in turn lead to recovery.