Signs of an Abuser
An abusive man often takes his victim on a whirlwind ride of a relationship. He’s in a rush to make her fall in love so that he can begin the abuse sooner rather than later. And, she gets so attached that it is hard to leave.
Later, when he uses jealousy as his excuse for abuse, it fits well with his “I love you so much that I am in a jealous rage” narrative, which helps to keep her with him — because deep down he loves her so much.
Except that he doesn’t. He only loves being abusive.
Here are a few warning signs to look out for — many of which fit “Dan” — via the Women’s Crisis Service.
He won’t always fit all of these, but look for clusterings:
Abusers can be very charming. In the beginning, they may seem to be Prince Charming or a Knight in Shining Armor. He can be very engaging, thoughtful, considerate and charismatic. He may use that charm to gain very personal information about her. He will use that information later to his advantage.
For example; he will ask if she has ever been abused by anyone. If she says, “yes”, he will act outraged that anyone could treat a woman that way. Then when he becomes abusive, he will tell her no one will believe her because she said that before and it must be her fault or two people would not have hit her.
Another example; he may find out she experimented with drugs in her past. He will then threaten that if she tells anyone about the abuse he will report her as a drug abuser and she will lose her children. The threat to take away her children is one of the most common threats abusers use to maintain power and control over their victims.
Abusers isolate their victims geographically and socially. Geographic isolation includes moving the victim from her friends, family and support system (often hundreds of miles); moving frequently in the same area and/or relocating to a rural area.
Social isolation usually begins with wanting the woman to spend time with him and not her family, friends or co-workers. He will then slowly isolate her from any person who is a support to her. He dictates whom she can talk to; he tells her she cannot have contact with her friends or family.
Jealousy is a tool abusers use to control the victim. He constantly accuses her of having affairs. If she goes to the grocery store, he accuses her of having an affair with the grocery clerk. If she goes to the bank, he accuses her of having an affair with the bank teller. Abusers routinely call their victims whores or sluts.
The goal of emotional abuse is to destroy the victim’s self-esteem. He blames her for his violence, puts her down, calls her names and makes threats against her. Over time, she no longer believes she deserves to be treated with respect and she blames herself for his violence. For some survivors of domestic violence, the emotional abuse may be more difficult to heal from than the physical abuse.
Abusers are very controlled and very controlling people. In time, the abuser will control every aspect of the victim’s life: where she goes, how she wears her hair, what clothes she wears, whom she talks to. He will control the money and access to money. Abusers are also very controlled people. While they appear to go into a rage or be out of control we know they are very much in control of their behavior.
The following are the reasons we know his behaviors are not about anger and rage:
He does not batter other individuals – the boss who does not give him time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of his car. He waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves.
If you ask an abused woman, “can he stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?” She will say “yes”. Most often when the police show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected and she is the one who may look hysterical. If he were truly “out of control” he would not be able to stop himself when it is to his advantage to do so.
The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If he were “out of control” or “in a rage” he would not be able to direct or limit where his kicks or punches land.
Here are a few more warning signals:
1. Jealousy of your time with co-workers, friends and family.
2. Controlling behavior. (Controls your comings and goings and your money.)
3. Isolation. (Cuts you off from all supportive resources such as telephone pals, colleagues at work and close family members.)
4. Blames others for his problems. (Unemployment, quarrels – everything is “your fault.”)
5. Hypersensitivity. (Easily upset by annoyances that are a part of daily life.)
6. Cruelty to animals or children.
7. “Playful” use of force in sex. (May start having sex with you when you are sleeping or demand sex when you are ill or tired.)
8. Verbal abuse.
9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. (Sudden mood swings and unpredictable behavior – one minute loving, the next minute angry and punitive.)
10. Past history of battering. (Has hit others but has a list of excuses for having been “pushed over the edge.”)
11. Threats of violence.
12. Breaking or striking objects.
13. Uses force during an argument.
Any woman who sees herself in this column should call the nearest women’s crisis line and tell someone what is happening. She will be provided with support and safety options.
Some women do not realize they are being abused until someone points it out to them. They have been made to believe that abusive treatment is what they deserve and that most women are treated this way. Women who see themselves in his should check out the nearest shelter and keep the phone number handy. They can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (TDD: 800-787-3224).
1. Controlling behavior: “I know what’s best for you” and “I know what you want (or need).”The reality is that no one knows what is best for another adult.
2. Blames others for his problems: “Look what you made me do” and “If you hadn’t done that, none of this would have happened.” When Mr. Wrong and I had arguments, he would smother me with a pillow or choke me to get me to be quiet. I had to keep reminding myself that it was not my fault that he lost control of himself. I am responsible for my behavior, and he is responsible for his.
3. Use of force in sex: Mr. Wrong used to say that sex was one of my “wifely duties.”There is no law requiring a woman to have sex if she doesn’t want to. Forced sex is called rape.
4. History of battering: Excuses include the classic, “If you hadn’t provoked me …”The truth is that he chose to hit, push, kick, slap or punch you. If he hit you once, he will hit you again.
5. Verbal abuse: This was Mr. Wrong’s specialty. If someone deliberately hurts your feelings by word or deed, it is abuse, even if it is as simple as “You look fat in that outfit.”
6. Threats of violence: Threats are almost always precursors to the deed. If he threatens you, leave him before he does it.
7. Use of force during an argument: Most women feel, as I did, that if they haven’t been hit, they have not been physically abused. Restraining someone is also physical abuse. Pushing and shoving are physical abuse.
Abuse and battery take a toll on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual energy. It is easy to say no. We say this word all the time. Unfortunately, we find it especially difficult to say no to those we love and those we fear.
I thought it would be very difficult to leave Mr. Wrong. I worried that he would retaliate. I loved this man, and part of me always will. However, I don’t love anyone more than I love my life, health and sanity. All you have to do is decide that today you will be free. You can then be sure that tomorrow will be better.