Primary Aggressor

A Primary Aggressor is an adult or adolescent who gains power and control in a relationship by limiting the partners options on an ongoing basis through vigilance, coercion, non-cooperation and punishment, and maintains the limitation with the denial of abuse. Primary aggression is rooted in an extreme attachment to outcome--that outcome being a state in which the primary aggressor is indispensable to the survivor. Said differently, this a state in which the survivor can in no way dispose of the primary aggressor. Nice tactics may be used at first and intermittently, but when the survivor tries to exercise options in her life, coercive tactics inevitably emerge.

A primary aggressor is that person that is adding the constant pressure of control to the system. It is not necessarily the person acting the most obviously inappropriate or hurtful.

A primary aggressor usually seeks to avoid assaultive acts, especially acts that meet the legal definition of abuse, but will resort to them if they believe they are losing control. Though type and frequency of abusive acts are usually the visible clue to a primary aggressor, it is the conscious or unconscious dedication to control of a partner at all costs that really defines being a primary aggressor.

Though both men and women can be interested in power and control, in heterosexual relationships, men have more talent and interest in gaining power by actually limiting the partner’s options, and are overwhelmingly found to be the primary aggressor. Identifying a primary aggressor, through the legal system or otherwise, is not a moral judgment. Rather it is a risk assessment. Primary aggression, with perhaps men’s greater biological talent for violence, is what drives escalation and homicide.