Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Uncontrollable Temper?

Recently I read this article;


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The judges’ comments got me pretty riled and I did my usual trick of a shouty, sweary, knee jerk reaction directed at a computer screen (I’m good at shouting at screens, especially the sweary bit). Often, my shouty, sweary knee jerk reactions lead to a bit of reflection, and then I have to acknowledge that I’d not read something thoroughly enough, or given it enough thought or consideration: “Sorry about my utter indignation and contempt, I missed the word “not” in that comment” etc.

But, I’ve had a few days now, I’ve looked at what the judge said again and again….and I don’t think I owe anyone an apology this time. In fact, maybe I should have sworn a bit more and shouted a bit louder.

There’s a lot going on in those judges’ comments that are awful; that he chooses to use the same word “tragedy” to describe both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s experience, that he frames the perpetrator's “tragedy” ahead of the victims. Then there’s the putting the whole thing down to alcohol. It’s all pretty grim reading. But the bit that really riled me was just two words; “uncontrollable temper”.

Domestic violence is not uncontrollable, ever. When a pattern of violence and abuse is consistently sustained against one particular person (most often in one particular place, and often in the same context), then that is, by its very nature incredibly well controlled. It is in fact, masterfully controlled; it’s the exact opposite of this notion of “just snapped” or “uncontrollable temper”.

If someone genuinely had an uncontrollable temper, then it would be out of control in all kinds of places, against all kinds of people, in all manner of different contexts: These assaults (or however else it may manifest) would be against a range of people; men and women, strangers and known, all over the place; the supermarket, the pub, work, the school run, in the street. If it’s genuinely uncontrollable then surely you can’t control when, where and against whom this uncontrolled temper is exacted.

And as long as we continue to paint domestic violence as a result of an “uncontrollable temper” we’re playing right into the perpetrators hands, because once we’ve allowed them to say that that their violence couldn’t be helped because it was uncontrollable, then we stop looking to the perpetrator to explain his behaviour…and where (more importantly who) do we look to next for an explanation? The wrong person.

Domestic violence happens because a man makes a choice; he makes the choice to be violent, and then exacts that violence in an incredibly controlled way. If there is such a thing as an “uncontrollable temper” (which I personally very much doubt) then the perpetrators of domestic violence are not those who have one.


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2 thoughts on “Uncontrollable Temper?

  • AEJ1967 says:

    Well said. In my time working with men convicted of domestic violence there was a kind of script that every one of them kept to regardless of class, education or personal circumstances 1) ‘You’ve know idea what She can make me do’ 2) ‘When I lose my temper I just lose control’ 3) ‘You’ve no idea the stress I’ve been under’ 4) ‘She gives as good as she gets’. Not one of these excuses puts the blame where it belongs – that would take maturity and honesty from the perpetrators – something they have been incapable of. None of these excuses stand up to any sustained level of scrutiny. For the courts to repeat the same old excuses as the perpetrators is truly shameful and something which only proper training and education about victims will begin to change.

  • Dan says:

    My ex has a bad temper and will throw and break things, which I put up with – what was the final straw was when important papers were thrown out while I was out. It drove home the complete lack of respect for my feelings. She had a very bad childhood – her father treated her mother very badly, and was abusive. This was something that I accepted as a reason for her bad temper.

    Near the beginning of the relationship, she said ‘I don’t understand why you make me feel so strongly’ – to explain why she lost her temper so badly. But she is a very professional person, and is able to not show anger with other people. Then it all comes out at home.

    Your sentence – “If someone genuinely had an uncontrollable temper, then it would be out of control in all kinds of places, against all kinds of people, in all manner of different contexts.” – really struck home. Yes – she is angry, and I understand why she is angry about her childhood – but that is not an excuse for the way that she treated me. She is able to treat other people professionally – it should not be different at home.

    I am lucky that I am bigger than my ex – her actions did not put me at risk. If our sizes had been reversed, it could have been very different.

    But breaking away has not been easy. People who I have told have been very surprised – we seemed like ‘the perfect couple’ – and it is very difficult to focus sometimes on the reasons why I split from her. I think that I have more of an understanding now of the difficulty of walking away from an abusive relationship. It is not an easy thing to do, even when we have no children or money issues to tie us together.

    Our public discourse about relationships does not acknowledge this complex nature. We do not truly appreciate the ties that keep abuse victims from leaving.

    Thank you for explaining so clearly the problem with ‘an uncontrollable temper’.