One of the most terrifying things we can ever experience is abuse at the hands of someone who is suppose to love and protect us. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women & 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with too many women who have found themselves in dangerous relationships. Many of those women have said they didn’t know how they ended up here.
It’s important to know an abusive relationship doesn’t begin right away nor does it happen in glaringly obvious ways. It is subtle, sneaky and manipulative. The abuser knows if they comes on too strong too fast with the abusive behaviors their prey will leave. No, they will be patient, working the long manipulative game, hooking their partner emotionally and then slowly beginning to insert the breakdowns. Here are some red flag behaviors to be aware:
- Push for quick involvement: comes on very strong, pressures for an exclusive commitment almost immediately
- Jealousy: Excessively possessive: calls constantly, visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone:” checks your mileage
- Controlling: Interrogates you intensely, especially if you’re late, about whom you talked to and where you were. Keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
- Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect woman and meet his every need.
- Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses your supporters of “causing trouble;” deprives you of a phone or car.
- Blames others: for his problems and mistakes: The boss, you—it’s always someone else’s’ fault.
- Makes everyone else responsible for his feelings: says, you make me angry” instead of “I AM angry,” or, “you’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.
- Hypersensitivity: Easily insulted, claiming his feelings are hurt when he is really mad; rants about things that are just part of life.
- Cruel to animals or children: kills or punishes animals brutally; expects children to do things that are beyond their ability, i.e. whips a two year old for wetting a diaper; teases children until they cry. SIXTY FIVE PERCENT OF ABUSERS WHO HIT THEIR PARTNER WILL ALSO HIT CHILDREN.
- “Playful” use of force during sex: enjoys throwing you down, holding you down against your will; says he finds the idea of rape exciting.
- Verbal abuse: constant criticism, says cruel or hurtful things; degrades, curses you, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you with relentless verbal abuse.
- Rigid gender roles: expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
- Sudden mood swings: switches from sweetly loving to explosive in a matter of minutes.
- Past battering: admits hitting women in the past, but says they made him do it or the situation was to blame.
- Threats of violence: makes statements like “I’ll break your neck” or “I’ll kill you,” then dismisses it with “everybody talks that way, you’re too sensitive” or “I didn’t mean it.” IF IT HAS COME THIS FAR, GET HELP OR GET OUT.
From the Project for Victims of Family Violence, Lafayette, ARK
While this is not an exhaustive list and every abuser will not exhibit every one of these behaviors it gives you an idea of what to be on the lookout for. Another fantastic resource is the book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry & Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
There are also local organizations available to help support you or even help get you out of the relationship safely if you find yourself in one. You are not alone & help is available to you!