Arrgh! It’s so annoying when a coworker says she’ll help you get that project done, but the minute 5:00pm gets here she’s out the door. Or what about the coworker who’s always getting calls and texts from their significant other? You don’t want to say anything to your supervisor, but it’s affecting productivity and morale. And then there’s the coworker who is the Queen of mood swings. One minute she’s smiling and interacting with everyone and the next thing you know, she’s quiet and depressed.
Do you know a coworker who
These are all signs of domestic abuse. NOT necessarily domestic violence, but emotional, verbal and possibly financial abuse. The more obvious domestic violence signs would include the coworker who comes in with a black eye, bruises, or a broken bone and laughs about how clumsy she is.
These signs of domestic abuse are a compilation of domestic violence education and real life clients of mine. I was seeing one of my clients at her work because she was only allowed to drive to work and then home and he checked the miles every day. She also had to “check in” with him on her work computer every 30 minutes to prove she was at work. Another client, a surgical nurse, would be totally focused on her job and enjoying her coworkers, but then check her text messages on break and her whole mood would change. One of my clients told me she used to accept invitations from coworkers to meet up for dinner or drinks, but then would have to cancel because her husband was too upset. She would then go home, only to spend the evening with him giving her the silent treatment.
Sure, one of these signs doesn’t mean a woman is in an abusive relationship, as there may be other reasons. But it is something to be aware of and maybe be a little curious. The next time you feel yourself feeling annoyed by their behavior, try to talk to them about what you’re noticing and let them know you care. You don’t have to fix her situation or be her therapist, just let her talk and let her know there are people who can help. Domestic abuse is fueled by silence and secrecy. Don’t be afraid to bring it up, you could be saving a life.
(Edited article) August 27, 2015 by Shea Emma Fett
10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic
Let me share my experience. Here are ten things I wish I’d known at the beginning.
1. Gaslighting Doesn’t Have to Be Deliberate
About the fifth time I called a close friend of mine on the phone, gasping for air, asking “Am I a monster?” he finally said, “Emma, he’s gaslighting you.” What is gaslighting? I thought.
Wikipedia told me that it came from an old movie, where the main character makes changes in the environment and then insists to his victim that she is simply imagining these changes.
Whaat? I thought. My partner isn’t doing that. I could not imagine him plotting and manipulating my environment or our interactions to make me feel crazy. He’s a human being who is hurt, who I keep hurting. It’s me, not him.
2. Manipulation and Gaslighting Are Distinct Behaviors
Maybe a better way to put this is that gaslighting is a type of manipulation, but not the only type.
Manipulation usually centers around a direct or indirect threat that is made in order to influence another person’s behavior. Gaslighting uses threats as well, but has the goal of actually changing who someone is, not just their behavior.
Both will degrade your self-esteem, but gaslighting, when effective, will actually damage your trust in yourself and your experience of reality.
3. Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation
The book The Gaslight Effect refers to a type of gaslighting called glamor gaslighting. This is where the gaslighter showers you with special attention, but never actually gives you what you need. They put you on a pedestal, but then they’re not there. In fact, they may get angry at you when you need a shoulder to cry on.It becomes difficult, after a while, to identify why it is that you feel so alone and hollow.
In another type of gaslighting, the gaslighter is always transformed into the victim. Whenever you bring up a problem, you find yourself apologizing by the end of the conversation.
Every gaslighter/gaslightee relationship is different, but for me, there was a very specific pattern. I would say something to him. He would have a very strong emotional reaction to it, far above what I would have anticipated. I would backtrack to try figure out what I had said and how to make it better. He would accuse me of inconsistency when I backtracked. I would try to explain that I was adjusting to try to communicate best with him, because clearly I was failing. He would tell me that my inconsistency implied that I was lying. I would say, “No, no, I know I’m not lying. Maybe I just can’t remember it right.” “It seems I can’t trust your memory,” he would say. We would never return to the original issue. I usually ended up crying hysterically.
4. It’s Normal Not to Be Able to Remember What Happened
This, more than anything, is something I wish I had known. It was a secret I kept, that fed my self doubt and guilt for years after I left. I used to black out. I remember conversations where I would start standing in the kitchen and end up in a ball on the floor. Just days after it happened, I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened in the time in between. I wouldn’t even be able to remember what the conversation was about. My abuser accused me of abuse while I was with him – and then publicly for years after.
I found some things in me that needed to change, but I couldn’t find what it was that he saw in me. I could not find the narcissist. I could not find the vicious manipulator. I could not find the home wrecker. But I had black spots in my memory. Completely black. And I wondered , Is that when it happened? Is that when I abused him?
It’s normal to lose your memory when you’re being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for. It’s a good sign that it might be time to leave.
5. There Are Distinct Stages (And These Stages Can Progress After the Relationship Is Over)
A gaslighter doesn’t simply need to be right. They also need for you to believe that they are right.
In stage one, you know that they’re being ridiculous, but you argue anyways. You argue for hours, without resolution. You argue over things that shouldn’t be up for debate – your feelings, your opinions, your experience of the world. You argue because you need to be right, you need to be understood, or you need to get their approval. In stage one, you still believe yourself, but you also unwittingly put that belief up for debate.
In stage two, you consider your gaslighter’s point of view first and try desperately to get them to see your point of view as well. You continue to engage because you’re afraid of what their perspective of you says about you. Winning the argument now has one objective : proving that you’re still good, kind, and worthwhile.
In stage three, when you’re hurt, you first ask, “What’s wrong with me?” You consider their point of view as normal. You start to lose your ability to make your own judgements. You become consumed with understanding them and seeing their perspective. You live with and obsess over every criticism, trying to solve it. Looking back, I see that I was deep in stage two when I left the relationship. However, I continued to try to have a friendship with him for months after. I longed for resolution, understanding, and forgiveness.
6. There Are Distinct Traits That Make You More Susceptible to Gaslighting, But They Can Also Be Super Powers
There are three tendencies that will pull you into a gaslighting exchange. These tendencies are the need to be right, the need to be understood, and the need for approval. Additionally, certain traits – such as being empathic, being a caretaker, needing to see your partner in a positive light, and being a “people pleaser” – might make you more susceptible.
7. You Know What Your Truth Is – You Always Have, and You Always Will
Your gaslighter doesn’t see you. You are a shadow standing to the side, trying not to attract attention, while they shower their image of you with love and attention. And no matter how much your mind is in knots, you know this to be true. You know the space you occupy, even if you hate yourself for it. If you look back, if you look inside, you will see that you always knew that something was wrong. It may feel like you lost your core. But it was always there.
8. The End Game Is Not Confrontation, It’s Non-Engagement
When you engage in any way, you tell your gaslighter and yourself that your reality is up for debate. Your reality is not up for debate. It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry or puzzled. “What would make you think that you could know what’s inside of me? Instead, many of us will find ourselves trying to reach understanding. No, that’s not what happened, that’s not what I felt!
And this is a reasonable response – to a point. But if the goal of the conversation is to exchange power, and not to exchange understanding, you will never, ever, ever win. You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject.
9. You Must Confront the Threat
Every gaslighting exchange exists under the shroud of some kind of threat. For my relationship, the threat started out as disapproval, then it was the relationship that was threatened, and eventually the threat escalated to his own life.
I had no ability to confront or resist the gaslighting until one by one, I confronted the fears that these threats produced in me.
10. Gaslighting May Be Amplified in Families, Poly Relationships, and Other Groups
It’s hard to stand firm when one person is trying to replace your experience, but when they have a chorus of supporters, it is nearly impossible. There is a reason why cult abuse can lead to a complete breakdown of someone’s personality. Group manipulation and abuse is devastatingly effective.
I know there is a lot of shame tied up in ending a relationship, and no one wants to be the bad guy. But we all owe it to each other to not participate in relationships where anyone’s self esteem is being degraded.
Susan Weitzman, Ph.D., wrote a book titled “Not to People Like Us.” It is about domestic abuse in “upscale marriages.” The following is an excerpt from that book (chapter 6) and describes why I am passionate about women coming together and telling their story. (Relationship and boyfriend can be substituted for marriage and husband.)
THE POWER OF THE STORY
What is it about a sympathetic ear that motivates an abused wife to step away from the difficult path she has been treading for so many years? As I noted in Chapter2, a woman learns about the world through reflections of herself and her universe as viewed through the eyes of those whom she connects with and respects. She learns within relationships and incorporates others’ perceptions into her own to confirm her experiences and to be better able to see how she fits with the rest of humanity. When others validate her reality by listening to her story and taking it seriously, she gains the strength she needs to take action.
Moreover, as the abused woman talks to others, she is forced to construct, often for the first time, her own terrible story from beginning to end. She has concealed the truth from others for so long, and on some level she may have been keeping it secret from herself as well.
It is as if the woman has endured experiences that remain disjointed in her consciousness. They don’t make sense to her. There is no place to put them in her mind, so she distances herself from them by using denial and rationalization. But in telling her story to others, these disconnected pieces suddenly coalesce into a horrifying whole- she sees the pattern of abuse and understands her situation. The support and input of empathetic others guides her toward a more realistic view of her circumstances.
As she speaks out, she beings to realize that her rationalizations and justifications have led her in directions that are not in her best interest. Previous theories of domestic abuse suggest that insight- independent of others- promotes shifts in behavior. But I have found that for these women piercing the veil of secrecy, telling the story, sets them on the path toward freedom. The abused upscale wife slowly comprehends what it means to acknowledge that her husband is a batterer- to admit that her reality is different from what society supports and considers normal. In speaking her truth, she feels relief and a sense that her world has expanded, that she has options. And this allows others to help her.
When a woman talks with someone who acknowledges her dilemma, her inner voice and abilities enlarge. She sees that she was correct in her initial impression that her husband’s behavior was wrong, even if she believed no one else in her community was undergoing the same assaults. Her previously squelched feelings of fear now reemerge and become dominant, and over time she beings to listen to herself.
Coming out of the closet, breaking the isolation, and freeing herself of the burden of keeping the abuse secret provide many benefits for the upscale battered woman:
When I tell people the kind of work I do, I often hear: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” The answer to that is complicated, but it is my hope that if I write this article I can get just one person to say “Oh, I see, It’s not that easy.”
One of my clients stays with her abuser because he has told her he will kill her parents if she leaves. She doesn’t want to find out if he really means it.
Another woman stays because after 20 years of marriage he has isolated her from all of her family and friends. She’s not been “allowed” to work and cannot support herself. She doesn’t want to take her kids away from their home, school, and friends.
Another woman stays because he threatens to take the kids full-time so that she won’t get any child support. He controls all their money and says he will get the best lawyer he can. She has no money of her own. The thought of not seeing her kids everyday is unbearable.
Another woman stays because she gave up everything to be with this super handsome, charming, romantic, successful man. No one would believe her and he’s convinced her he acts the way he does because of her. He’s so good at the emotional abuse that she doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not.
Another woman stays because she understands what a tough life he has had and she believes if she loves him and doesn’t give up on him, he will change. She doesn’t want to be another person in his life who hurts him.
Here are some actual quotes from women who have not left their abuser:
“I still love him. I’m in love with the man I married, not who he is when he’s mean.”
“I know if I keep showing my love and commitment, he will change.”
“I want to prove to him I’m none of those awful things he says I am.”
“I’m afraid of what will happen to him if I leave. I couldn’t live with that guilt.”
“I don’t deserve better.”
“It’s better than being all alone.”
“He cried and said he was sorry. I know he wants to change and he needs my help.”
If we remember that abuse doesn’t happen right away it will be easier to understand. It takes years of manipulation and beating the women down until she longer recognizes herself and has no one in her life to remind her of who she used to be. We invest a lot of ourselves into a relationship and it’s not so easy to give up on it, especially if she has come to believe that she is the problem.
You may be in an abusive relationship if he or she:
Is jealous or possessive toward you - Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding - Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships. You are afraid to see your family or friends or do what you want because your partner gets angry. - Is violent and/or loses their temper quickly.- Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with or the opposite, and will not give you any amount of physical attention. - abuses drugs or alcohol. - Claims you are responsible for their emotional state. - Blames YOU when THEY mistreat you. - Has a history of bad relationships. - Makes "jokes" that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass you, privately or around family and friends. - Grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child. - Rages when they feel hurt, shame, fear or loss of control.
- You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.
- Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you that they are concerned for your
safety or emotional well being.
- You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends and family.
- You have trouble ending the relationship even though you know it's the right thing to do.
Ask yourself, DOES THE PERSON YOU LOVE...
- CONSTANTLY KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TIME?
- ACT JEALOUS AND POSSESSIVE?
- ACCUSE YOU OF BEING UNFAITHFUL OR FLIRTING?
- KEEP YOU AWAKE? FORCE YOU TO LISTEN TO HIM TALK FOR LONG PERIODS?
- CONSTANTLY CRITICIZES OR BELITTLES YOU?
- CONTROL ALL FINANCES AND FORCE YOU TO ACCOUNT FOR WHAT YOU SPEND?
- HUMILIATE YOU IN FRONT OF OTHERS? (INCLUDING "JOKING")
- DESTROY OR TAKE YOUR PERSONAL PROPERTY OR SENTIMENTAL ITEMS?
- GIVE YOU THE "SILENT TREATMENT"?
- THREATEN TO HURT YOU , YOUR CHILDREN, OR PETS?
- FORCE YOU TO HAVE SEX AGAINST YOUR WILL OR WITHHOLD SEX FROM YOU?
These are all warning signs of an abusive relationship. Notice there doesn't need to be any physical violence in order for it to be abusive. You are not at fault. You are not crazy. No, your love for him will not be enough to change him. Yes, you will be believed. Yes, you can be happy again. Stop the silence. Talk to someone.
A woman spends nine months, or longer, preparing for the birth of her child. She reads the books, takes the classes, has a birth plan, and possibly a midwife, doula, or birthing coach, she’s made decisions on whether or not to have an epidural, who will be at the birth, circumcision or no circumcision?
Birth trauma is not a widely acknowledged form of Post-Traumatic Stress or Postpartum Mood Disorders, although research states that 1% - 6% of women will experience it with their child’s birth.
Dr. Edna B. Foa, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Part of what distinguishes traumatic events from ordinary ones is that they have no template. If you don’t have a template for interpreting information, then it takes a lot more cognitive effort for your brain to assign a meaning to it.”
Post-traumatic stress symptoms can develop when the traumatic event is linked to an earlier memory, often of vulnerability and powerlessness. My clients have used the words “violated” and “bullied” when describing their birth experience. Forced to accept unwanted medical treatment or procedures performed in an insensitive manner can also create trauma. . Unexpected circumstances during delivery, either with the mother or the baby, can cause the mother to experience a threat to her and the baby’s life.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into three categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, and increased arousal. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
The heavy curtains are closed, but a sliver of sunshine comes through and lands on the pile of dishes in the sink. The dog is sitting by his food bowl, hoping to be fed. He makes me feel guilty for not walking him, so I
fill the bowl without making eye contact with him. I glance at my “to do” list and my heart begins to race. I turn away and walk into the living room. I reach for the remote and turn on the TV. I tell myself I’ll just sit for a few minutes and then I’ll feel better and go get dressed. Today I will go to the grocery store and buy something to make a nice dinner for us tonight. My husband will be so happy and proud of me. I wonder what he’s doing now? I wonder who he’s talking to? I send him a text message. My heart pounds faster and I need the TV off. I decide to go back to bed until this feeling passes. Then I’ll get dressed and go to the store. I know I can do it. I used to do it all the time. I want to do it. What is wrong with me?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders affect more than 25 million Americans. The most common types of anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Between
50-90% of people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder also have other problems, such as, depression, eating disorders, alcoholism, or some other form of substance abuse.
Symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, problems sleeping, irritability, and physical symptoms that appear to be heart problems, respiratory illness, digestive problems and sexual dysfunction.
Anxiety causes the brain to release the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases the heart rate and blood pressure. It suppresses the functions we wouldn’t need in time of threat, such as, reproduction, digestion, and our immune response. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause damage to the hippocampus in the brain, which affects our memory, concentration, and learning. It also affects our mood, which is why depression often is seen with anxiety.
If you look at the symptoms of anxiety and the affects of elevated cortisol, it is easy to see the negative effects in the workplace. Sleep deprivation, troubles concentrating and learning, poor memory, and physical
illness will interfere with a person’s ability to properly perform, focus on work, or even come into work. In addition to physical deficits, anxiety can leave a person with low self-esteem, negative and critical thinking or paranoia. These characteristics lead to interpersonal problems with co-workers.
These are also characteristics that lead to problems in personal relationships. Even the best of relationships can’t withstand feelings of insecurity, criticism, low self-esteem, and accusations for very long. A highly
anxious person may also be paralyzed to do simple daily functions, such as, getting dressed and getting outside the house. They may be unable to drive, keep a job, or take care of children. Not being able to do the things they want to do leads to further anxiety.
The exact cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not known, but some people may have an inherited tendency to develop the problem. Sometimes anxiety is a familiar feeling a person has lived with all their life, but it may be a misinterpretation of other, more difficult feelings, such as grief, emotional pain, and disappointment.
The best way to treat anxiety is by looking at all the treatment options and customizing it to fit the individual. This might mean a combination of psychotherapy, self-care, and medication. Within each of those categories is a list of possible options.
Psychotherapy has a number of techniques that may be helpful. Cognitive Behavioral therapy can help a person look at their thought processes and understand where they came from and how to change them.
Person Centered therapy would include self-exploration and acceptance. Solution Focused therapy would focus more on the present and finding ways to move forward without going too deep into the past. Psychotherapists also use many “tools” to help individuals. Some of the more common techniques are hypnosis, Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), and Emotional Freedom Technique
Self-care includes exercise, eating healthy, yoga, meditation, relaxation exercises, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, journaling, limiting stress, creating healthy boundaries in relationships, simplifying your life, learning to be present and in the moment, facing fears, having hobbies, and seeking support from others. Self-care is very personalized to each individual and what works best for them.
Medication might be an antidepressant such as Prozac or Zoloft. Or it might be an antianxiety drug like Xanax or Klonopin, which can bring quick relief compared to antidepressants that may take several weeks to begin to work. A person may even require both types of medications. A doctor will work with the individual to determine the best course of treatment and monitor the effects. For best results, medication should be used with Psychotherapy.
The most important part is in taking action and not waiting until you feel better. So even if your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and you feel light-headed, call your doctor and make an appointment, call a therapist and make an appointment, and call your best friend and go walk the dog together.
Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality
It is sometimes possible to predict the likelihood of the person you are currently or are about to become involved with being abusive. Below are a list of behaviors and traits which are common in abusive personalities. These are commonly known as Warning Signs.
While not all abusive people show the same signs, or display the tendencies to the same extent, if several behavioral traits are present, there is a strong tendency toward abusiveness. Generally, the more signs that are present, the greater the likelihood of violence. In some cases, an abuser may have only a couple of behavioral traits that can be recognized, but they are very exaggerated (e.g. extreme jealousy over ridiculous things).
Often the abuser will initially try to explain his/her behavior as signs of his/her love and concern, and the victim may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviors become more severe and serve to dominate, control and manipulate the victim.
Jealousy- At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say the jealousy is a sign of love. He
may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, may accuse you of flirting, or be jealous of time you spend with family, friends, children or hobbies which do not include him. As the jealousy progresses, he may call you frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may be
unhappy about or refuse to let you work for fear you'll meet someone else, check the car mileage or ask friends to keep an eye on you. Jealousy is not proof of love, it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.
Controlling Behavior- Controlling behavior is often disguised or excused as concern. Concern for your safety, your emotional or mental health, the need to use your time well, or to make sensible decisions. Your abuser may be angry or upset if you are 'late' coming back from work, shopping, visiting friends, etc., even if you told him you would be later than usual. Your abuser may question you closely about where you were, whom you spoke to, the content of every conversation you held, or why you did something he was not involved in. As this behavior gets worse, you may not be allowed to make personal decisions about the house, clothing, going to church or how you spend your time or money or even make you ask for permission to leave the house or room. Alternately, he may theoretically allow you your own decisions, but penalize you for making the wrong ones. Concern for our loved ones to a certain extent is normal - trying to control their every move is not.
Quick Involvement - Many victims of abuse dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser will often claim 'love at first sight', that you are 'made for each other', or that you are the only person whom he could ever talk to so openly, feel so at home with, could understand him so well. He may tell you that they have never loved anyone so much or felt so loved by anyone so much before, when you have really only known each other for a short amount of time. He needs someone desperately, and will pressure you to commit to him or make love before you feel the relationship has reached 'that stage'. He may also make you feel guilty for not committing yourself to
Unrealistic Expectations - The abuser may expect you to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, and friend. He is very dependent on you for all his needs, and may tell you he can fulfill all your needs as lover, friend, and companion. Statements such as: 'lf you love me, I'm all you need.', 'You are all I need.' are common. Your abuser may expect you to provide everything for him emotionally, practically, financially or spiritually, and then blame you for not being perfect or living up to expectation.
Isolation - The abuser may try to curtail your social interaction. He may prevent you from spending time with your friends or family and demand that you only go places 'together'. He may accuse you of being 'tied to your mother's apron strings', not be committed to the relationship, or view people who are your personal friends as 'causing trouble' or 'trying to put a wedge' between you. He may want to live in the country without a phone, not let you use the car, stop you from working or gaining further education or qualifications.
Blame-shifting for Problems - Very rarely will an abusive personality accept responsibility for any negative situation or problem. If they are unemployed, can't hold down a job, were thrown out of college or University or fall out with their family, it is always someone else's fault, be it the boss, the government, or their mother. They may feel that someone is always doing them wrong, or out to get him. He may make a mistake and then blame you for upsetting him/her or preventing him from doing as they wished to.
Blame-shifting for Feelings - The abuser will deny feelings stem from within him/her but see them as reactions to your behavior or attitude toward him. He may tell you that 'you make me mad', 'you're
hurting me by not doing what I ask', or that he cannot help feeling mad, upset, etc. Feelings may be used to manipulate you, i.e. 'I would not be angry if you didn't ...' Positive emotions will often also be seen as originating outside the abuser, but are more difficult to detect. Statements such as 'You make me happy' or 'You make me feel good about myself' are also signs that the abuser feels you are responsible for his sense of well-being. Either way, you become in his mind the cause of good and bad feelings and are therefore
responsible for his emotional well-being and happiness. Consequently, you are also to blame for any negative feelings such as anger, upset or depression.
Hypersensitivity - Most abusers have very low self-esteem and are therefore easily insulted or upset. They may claim their feelings are 'hurt' when they are really angry, or take unrelated comments as personal attacks. They may perceive normal set-backs (having to work additional hours, being asked to help out, receiving a parking fine, etc.) as grave personal injustices. They may view your preference for something which differs from their own as a criticism of their taste and therefore themselves (e.g. blue wallpaper rather than pink, etc.).
Cruelty to Animals - The abuser may punish animals brutally, be insensitive to their pain or suffering, or neglect to care for the animals to the point of cruelty, e.g. not feeding them all day, leaving them in areas he/she knows will cause them suffering or distress. There is a strong correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence which is still being researched.
Child Abuse - The abusers unrealistic expectations of their partner are often mirrored in their attitude toward children. He will think of children as 'small adults' and blame the children for not being responsible, having common sense or understanding. He may expect children to be capable far beyond their ability (e.g. is angry with a two-year old for wetting their pants or being sick on the carpet, waking at night or being upset by nightmares) and will often meet out punishments for 'naughtiness' the child could not be aware of. Abusers may tease children until they cry, or punish children way beyond what could be deemed appropriate. He may not want children to eat at the table, expect them to stay quiet, or keep to their room all evening while he is at home. Since abusers want all your attention themselves, they resent your spending time with the children or any normal demands and needs the children may have. As above (cruelty to animals), there is a very strong link between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.
'Playful' use of Force in Sex - He may pressure you to agree to forceful or violent acts during sex, or want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. A male abuser may let you know that the idea of "rape"
excites him. He may show little concern about whether you want to have intercourse and uses sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. Starting sex while you are sleeping, demanding sex when you are ill or tired, or refusing any form of intimacy unless you are willing to go 'all the way' can all be signs that he could be sexually abusive or sexually violent.
Rigid Gender Roles - Abusers usually believe in stereotypical gender roles. A man may expect a woman to serve him; stay at home, obey him in all things - even things that are criminal in nature. A male abuser will often see women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. Female abusers may expect the man to provide for them entirely, shift the responsibility for her well-being onto him
or heckle him as being 'not a real man' if he shows any weakness or emotion.
Verbal Abuse - In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, either in public or in private, this can include degrading remarks or running down any accomplishments. Often the abuser will tell you that you are 'stupid', could not manage without him. He may keep you up all night to 'sort this out once and for all' or even wake you at night to continue to verbally abuse you. The abuser may even say kind things to your face, but speak badly about you to friends and family.
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde - Very rarely do abusers conform to the stereotypical image of a constantly harsh, nasty or violent person, either in public or in private. More frequently the abuser portrays a perfectly normal and pleasant picture to the outside world (often they have responsible jobs or are respected and important members of the local community or Church) and reserves the abuse for you in the privacy of your own home. Nor are abusers always overtly abusive or cruel, but can display apparent kindness and consideration. This Jeckyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser serves to further confuse the victim, while protecting themselves from any form of suspicion from outsiders. Many victims describe "sudden" changes in mood - one minute nice and the next explosive or hysterical, or one minute happy and the next minute sad. This does not indicate some special "mental problem" but are typical of abusive personalities, and related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.
Drink or Substance Abuse - While neither drinking or the use of drugs are signs of an abusive personality, heavy drinking or drug abuse may be a warning sign and do increase the risks of abuse, especially violence, taking place. Often an abusive person will blame the drink for his abuse. However, a person who, knowing there is a risk he could be violent when drinking or on drugs, chooses to get drunk or high, is in effect choosing to abuse. The link between substance abuse and domestic abuse is still being researched, and it is apparent that while neither alcohol nor drugs necessarily cause violence, they do increase the risk of violence.
Past History- Very rarely is abuse or violence a one-time event: a batterer will beat any woman he is with; a sexually abusive person will be abusive toward all his intimate partners. Situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality. Sometimes friends or family may try to warn you about the abuser. Sometimes the abuser may tell you himself that he has hit or sexually assaulted someone in the past. However, they may further go on to explain that "she made me do it by ..." or in some other way not take responsibility and shift the blame on to the victim. They may tell you that it won't happen with you because "you love them enough to prevent it" or "you won't be stupid enough to wind me up that much". Once again, this is denying their own responsibility for the abuse, and shifting the responsibility for the relationship to remain abuse-free on to you. Past violence is one of the strongest pointers that abuse will occur. If at all possible, try to speak to their previous girlfriends.
Negative Attitude toward Women - Some men may tell you that you are different from all the women they have known before, display a lack of respect of women generally or talk negatively and disrespectfully of their previous wives or girlfriends. They may tell you that you are special, not like the others and that they consider themselves to be the luckiest man alive to have found the last decent woman. It is not likely to be long before they remember that you are a woman and don't deserve their respect.
Threatening Violence - This would obviously include any threat of physical force such as "If you speak to him again, I'll kill you", or "If any wife of mine acted like John's did, I'd give it to her". Threats are designed to manipulate and control you, to keep you in your place and prevent you from making your own decisions. Most people do not threaten their mates, but an abuser will excuse this behavior by saying
"everybody talks like that.", maintaining he is only saying this because the relationship or you are so important to him, tell you you're "over-sensitive" for being upset by such threats, or obviously want to hurt
him/her. Threats can also be less overt, such as "If you leave me, I will kill myself", or "You are so wonderful, I will never let you go/couldn't live without you".
Breaking or Striking Objects - The abusive person may break your treasured object, beat his fists on the table or chair or throw something at or past you. Breaking your things is often used as a punishment for
some imagined misdeed on your part. Sometimes it will be justified by saying now that you are with him, you don't need these items any more. Breaking your possessions also has the effect of de-personalizing you, denying your individuality or literally trying to break links to your past. Beating items of furniture or throwing objects will often be justified by saying you wound him up so much they lost control, once again shifting the blame for this behavior on to you, but is actually used to terrorize you into submission. Only very immature or abusive people beat on objects in the presence of other people in order to threaten or intimidate them.
Any Force during an Argument - An abuser may physically restrain you from leaving the room, lash out at you with his hand or another object, pin you against a wall or shout 'right in your face'. Basically any form of force used during an argument can be a sign that actual violence is a strong possibility.
If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, or just aren't sure (confusion is very common!), please contact me and let's talk.
The above list was prepared with reference to A Guide to recognizing Behaviors of Abusive persons, Cheektowaga Police Department. The Abusive Personality, Donald G. Dutton