Female Domestic Violence Offenders: How Can Men Spot One?

April 20, 2015 Kellie Jo Holly

How can you identify a female domestic violence offender before she assaults you? Learn the signs of a female domestic violence offender. Read now.

Scientists study female domestic violence offenders more than in the past. Men and women differ in many ways, and no one knows if female domestic violence offenders' motivations to commit violence will turn out to be the same as male motivations. But seeing as we must start somewhere, it seems logical to begin with what we know about male offenders.

The research on female domestic violence offenders currently follows the research found relating to male offenders, namely the type of attachment style in intimate relationships, trauma symptoms and personality disorders. What can men look for to spot a female domestic violence offender?

Female Domestic Violence Offenders And Attachment Styles

Attachment theory puts forth the idea that our relationship to caregivers as children directly influences our relationships to intimate partners as adults. Children whose caregivers abuse, neglect or otherwise feel distant to the children grow up to have insecure attachments which are, as they sound, unhealthy attachments to others.

Insecure attachments are synonymous to the popular term fear of abandonment. Insecure attachments and a fear of abandonment in childhood can lead to very serious mental problems such as:

Female domestic violence offenders, in comparison with female non-offenders, are much more likely to be insecurely attached to their romantic partners. Therefore, it follows that female domestic violence offenders could suffer from one of the conditions mentioned above.

Remember: a woman who suffers from a mental disorder should not be treated differently from any other person who acts abusively. This means that pity for her suffering a mental disorder is not a good reason to stay in the abusive relationship. Preserving your mental health is a good reason to leave it.

Because the violent woman tends to be insecurely attached, men in abusive relationships could notice their violent female partners:

  • Have a highly acute fear of abandonment resulting in accusations their partner is purposefully unavailable (no matter how much time you spend with her), cheating (often and without reason) and sometimes violent jealous reactions that seem to come from nowhere.
  • Have a high motivation to pursue careers or financial independence (because female domestic violence offenders do not want to depend on their partners emotionally or financially, but financial independence is the easiest way to make independence a reality).
  • Conversely, violent women who do not work outside of the home or earn little money could be judgmental of their partner's ability to provide and maliciously insult/criticize their partner for being lazy, unable to care for the family, unmanly, etc.
  • Show poor emotional regulation (moody, fly off the handle, surprise emotional attacks, etc.)
  • Exhibit poor or manipulative communication skills and/or seem unwilling to or unaware of how to relate to their intimate partner in a healthy manner. (See Gaslighting: Designed to Destroy Your Sanity and How Did You Brainwash Me?)

Trauma Symptoms of Female Domestic Violence Offenders

In comparison to female victims of domestic violence, female domestic violence offenders tend to score lower on tests for PTSD. However, since PTSD is a possible disorder related to insecure attachments, the effects of PTSD on violent women need further study. Additionally, it is worthwhile to examine and, if necessary, treat PTSD when women go into treatment to (hopefully) stop their violent behavior.

Female Domestic Violence Offenders and Personality Disorders

Comparing female domestic violence offenders to male offenders shows distinct correlations between female offenders and personality disorders. Seventy-one percent of female offenders have elevated scores for some personality disorders compared to 26% of male offenders. Both male and female groups scored high on the scales for Narcissism and Compulsive disorders (see Addiction). Women offenders tended to score higher than the men on the scales for Histrionic and Borderline disorders.

If you're questioning if your female mate could be or become a female domestic violence offender, here are some more signs to look for in relation to mental illness and disorders:

  • Female offenders may have attempted suicide in the past.
  • She may be taking psychotropic medications (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-obsessive agents, etc.).
  • She displays several narcissistic-type, addictive, borderline-type or histrionic-type traits (such as dramatically emotional, attention-seeking, self-important, charming, manipulative, seductive, demanding, energetic, impulsive, self-harming, promiscuous, poor sense of who she is without describing who someone else is, et cetera).

Considering the Abusive Personality of Some Domestic Violence Offenders

Some studies show slightly different psychopathologies for female domestic violence offenders as compared to male offenders. For example, one study showed that 95% of female domestic violence offenders were diagnosed with personality disorders compared to 70% of male offenders.

I find this and the previous statistic worth investigating as prior research I've read stated that percentage of mental disorders were no higher for abusive people than the general population. It seems that research has given cause to label an Abusive Personality. The abusive personality constructs include the three problem areas discussed in this article: attachment, trauma and aspects of some personality disorders.

Final Thoughts on Male & Female Domestic Violence Offenders

Female domestic violence offenders may or may not be motivated by the same things as male offenders. Females may or may not commit domestic violence in the same percentage as males. More unknowns exist when it comes to the causes of domestic violence and how to identify an abuser (before experiencing abuse). I do not think male abusers are more psychologically damaging than female abusers.

I advise men and women who feel that something is wrong in their relationship to check their own emotions first. No one but you can determine if your relationship is healthy for you or unhealthy for you. I hope this article on female domestic violence offenders is useful, but please do not waste your time diagnosing your partner when it is better to examine your feelings.

If you feel abused, you are abused and need appropriate advice for your situation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-787-3224 TTY hearing impaired) and find local counseling to get to the root of the problem.

See also:

Testing The Abuser


Goldenson, PhD, J., Geffner, PhD, ABPN, ABPP, R., Foster, PhD, S. L., & Clipson, PhD, C. R. (2007, ). Female domestic violence offenders: Their attachment security, trauma symptoms, and personality organization. Retrieved from Proquest Psychology Journals

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2015, April 20). Female Domestic Violence Offenders: How Can Men Spot One?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Kimberly Mitchell
April, 23 2020 at 3:01 pm

I don’t like how this post gives the impression that women with mental illness, such as, borderline personality, are basically going to be abusive partners.
Some people with mental illness who take medication and go to therapy want to be normal people in relationships with healthy boundaries and behaviors...even if they suffer from attachment or abandonment issues.

April, 11 2016 at 1:57 pm

if the female spouse is cheating and the other knows it. Is that considered domestic violence? and how or where the victim can get assistance?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 12 2016 at 9:01 am

No, cheating isn't domestic violence no matter which sex does it. Cheating is, however, emotional abuse. The assistance you're looking for is with a therapist and/or a divorce attorney.

Lisa Young Larance
April, 30 2015 at 11:16 pm

Unfortunately, the information in this post contributes to the broad misunderstanding of women's use of force in their intimate relationships. For research and practice based evidence regarding this issue I suggest a close review of the following website: There readers can begin to gain a deeper understanding of this complex issue.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
May, 3 2015 at 2:05 am

Lisa, I love the premise of your website. The article is based on the reference cited which pulls information from many other research studies. The writers conducted their own research, too. I agree that the issues is understudied and not completely understood. I would love to interview you. If you're interested, email me at, and we'll do an email interview which I can use for a blog post here at
I followed you on twitter after noticing that you are the Renew program coordinator.
Thank you for your input.

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