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Neuro News: The Antisocial Personality DV Poster Child

May 12, 2011

I'm sick of hearing about how the politics of domestic violence has upended many men’s lives... I know I am.

By Robert Yourell

By now, I’ll bet you’re pretty much sick of hearing about how the politics of DV (domestic violence) has upended many men’s lives (not to mention blocking meaningful treatment and social services). You’ve already heard that about half of DV involves female violence (and no, it didn’t turn out that they were actually all defending themselves against the patriarchy). And you’ve heard that much of DV is mutual combat, and often fueled by alcohol. Maybe the second-biggest takeaway is the fact that the DV perpetrator stereotype (chronically violent and controlling male) only represents a small fraction of intimate partner violence.

Let’s look at the psychology of this stereotype, and see where feminist theory falls short in comparison to reality. The feminist archetype for DV more or less resembles a guy with antisocial personality disorder (a sociopath). This is a person with little or no respect for other people’s rights. They don’t have much in the way of compassion, so they tend to treat other people like objects to get whatever they want. They tend to overestimate their ability to get away with stuff, and they usually don’t have very good control over their emotions. Most have some cognitive impairments or even low overall intelligence.

But this type of person (yes, there are plenty of sociopathic women) doesn’t quite fit the stereotype that the old school feminists have built up. For one thing, he (or she) is not part of “patriarchy.” Sure, you may hear some old-school patriarchal things coming from him, but that’s because he is probably fairly impulsive, poorly educated, and is amazingly quick to rationalize and blame his way out of responsibility. It’s how he maintains some semblance of dignity in his own mind, all the way to jail. Also, they don’t usually limit their violence to intimate partners. They tend to have a violent history outside of relationships. They also tend to abuse alcohol or other drugs.

Patriarchal or not, this stereotype gets applied to any guy accused of DV. This reminds me of what happens with the “death scent” that ants produce when they die. It triggers the other ants to put them on the dead ant pile. But if you put some of that scent on a live ant, everybody puts him on the dead ant pile — no matter how much he flails around in protest. The ants have no ability to detect that an ant that is moving around should not be on the dead ant pile. The stink of criminal sociopathy is a lot like that death scent. Once accused, no matter how much he protests, he experiences the system treating him like the DV stereotype. Similarly, some DV advocates are so wary of guys getting off the hook, that they will insist that you are an enabler of violence if you take a sober look at the factors that they’d prefer to deny.

Too bad. Because their approach to “treatment” does not work and is way out of date. Licensed therapists and social workers are bound by their ethics to use treatments that are supported by research. They are in violation of their own ethical standards (and legal requirements in most states) if they do not bring their programs in line with current science — and there’s plenty of it.


Programs will increasingly be serving men. Here is one of the pioneers that has been a real advocate for up-to-date treatment:

Jan Elizabeth Brown, Founder and Executive Director

Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women

DV treatment professionals that are dissatisfied with the allegedly data-proof bias of the American Psychological Association DV discussion list should try the Yahoo Group listed as dv-treatment. There are some major experts participating.


Robert A. Yourell a consultant and therapist. He produces Sounds for Inner Space, with free sample experiences at his site, There, you can learn to “shimmer” away the triggers that cause you to react in ways you do not intend. See the free Shimmering Workbook. Clinical professionals and students will appreciate the PsychIN Directory of mental health research tools and article sources. Contact Robert at 619/677-6970 or toll-free at 877/266-8880.

Try his unique five-minute mindfulness meditation audio:

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