Identifying perpetrators who are presenting as victims of domestic abuse

Research shows that it is difficult to know when a male client is a victim or perpetrator of abuse.  We should support our clients as best we can to represent themselves in court without colluding with them.

The Dyn project identified a set of behaviours which were present in male perpetrators who were presenting as victims but were absent in ‘genuine’ victims.

Whilst you may find this information useful, you should not allow it to colour your judgement of an individual client.  However, it may make you more aware that you may be supporting a perpetrator of abuse and so inform you to choose your own language carefully. 

Actual Victim / Survivor

Perpetrator Presenting as a Victim


Minimises severity of incidents, although is likely to provide details and chronology

Minimises events, and is vague and unable to provide details


Takes responsibility , or excuses, the actions of the Perpetrator

Blames their partner for the incident



Empathy for partner, including difficult circumstances or childhood experiences

Focus on their experiences, little or no empathy for their partner


Feels remorse for fighting back or defending themselves

Feels aggrieved



Can identify a very specific reason why they called, often abusive

Less likely to identify a specific incident, instead focuses on general grievances


Ashamed of victimization

Assertively claims victim status



Does not appear to be in any immediate risk, not fearful



Overly confident


Has tried unsuccessfully to leave or repair relationship

Claims not to be able to understand why previous relationships ended


Feels a sense of obligation to abusive partner

May emphasise their role as a provider, or ‘saviour’


Focus on own responsibilities

Stereotyped view of roles in relationships



Last modified: Wednesday, 4 March 2020, 10:37 AM