Domestic Abuse Misconception #20: Some relationships are just mutually abusive, with each partner acting abusively toward the other, so they both need to be dealt with equally. The truth is that this is extremely rare. In abusive relationships one partner is always the primary aggressor.
It is easy to see how people would think that some relationships are just mutually abusive. Or even get it wrong as to who is actually the abuser. The reason being is that some victims respond to abuse in ways that can, in themselves, appear abusive. This is sometimes called "reactive abuse." There are plenty of times a victim can resort to yelling or throwing objects or even violence in response to the overwhelming power and control she is enduring. Her violence may be in self-defense or may be proactive, to head off abuse from the abuser.
When law enforcement is called, it isn't uncommon for the victim or both parties to be arrested. Teasing out who the abuser, also known as the "predominant aggressor," is from the victim can be a challenge for law enforcement that requires training.
It is common for abusers to claim victim status to gain sympathy and twist the narrative in their favor. It is common for victims to be pushed to extreme measures out of fear, self-protection, or desperation. Things aren't always what they seem at the moment. It is important to look at the whole puzzle and not just one piece.
Here are some guidelines for determining the predominant aggressor.
(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)