Recognizing Abuse

People engage in abusive behavior to try to get their way when others will not, or cannot, comply with their impulses and other demands.  The violence involved in physical abuse, for example, is a tool by which an abuser forces others to do what he, or she, wants.  Sexual abuse, controlling behavior, manipulation, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and other forms of personal attacks are just different ways of expressing abusive tendencies.  Where anyone can be an abuser, including “nice guys” needing to control, males and females can find themselves in abusive relationships with their significant others, parents, children, other relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, employers and other associates.

The problem with recognizing abuse is that for every act, which can be interpreted as abusive, there are legitimate reasons for responding in such a way.  If someone threatens or attacks you, your response is self-defense, whether it involves a violent or aggressive response.  Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse are often ways of defending oneself, especially when an individual is particularly passive-aggressive.  Meanwhile, social abuse, such as bullying, slander, harassment, and abusive uses of peer pressure, can be difficult to distinguish from acceptable behavior.  Abuse is abusive, because abusers are pursuing what they need and want by either neglecting the needs and wants of others or suppressing the needs and wants of others.  Given how difficult it can be to identify when someone is being abusive and when he, or she, is not, it is necessary to watch out for these warning signs.

 Warning Signs

15.      a.  If you are a passive person who has trouble asserting your needs and wants, you may be susceptible to abusive behaviors and relationships.  If you find yourself unable to express your needs and wants to someone who consistently overrides your decisions, feelings, and wants, you may be in an abusive relationship.  You should seek guidance from trusted family, friends, community leaders, and/or professional counselors able to help you better assert your needs and wants in healthier ways.

b. If you tend to be a passive-aggressive person who has trouble appropriately asserting your needs and wants then find yourself taking your frustrations out on others by exploding at people for not listening to what you want and need, you and those close to you may be trapped in a cycle of abuse.  Where your passive tendencies make you susceptible to abuse, your aggressive tendencies make it more likely you will react to others with abusive responses.  You should seek guidance from trusted family, friends, community leaders, and/or professional counselors able to help you better assert your needs and wants n healthier ways

c. If you tend to be an aggressive person, you may well find yourself in combative relationships with other aggressive people that eventually escalate into mutually abusive relationships.  You should seek guidance from trusted family, friends, community leaders, and/or professional counselors able to help you better assert your needs and wants in healthier ways.

14.       Abuse is built on the foundation of bad relationships.  If you find yourself in a relationship out of convenience, a need to belong, or a need to feel attached to someone, you may be in an arrangement that can easily devolve into an abusive situation when the superficial reason for your relationship ceases to exist.

You should ask yourself, “am I in a relationship because my family and friends want me to be in a relationship with someone.”  “Am I in a relationship because I want to or need to be a relationship, any relationship?”

Whether just meeting someone or transitioning to a new phase in a preexisting relationship, it is important to recognize experiences change people as well as relationships.  If a relationship becomes unhealthy or abusive, it is important to take proactive steps to address the unhealthy elements of that relationship before the situation gets worse.  You should seek guidance from trusted family, friends, community leaders, and/or professional counselors able to help you better assert your needs and wants in healthier ways.

13. Abusive individuals tend to be egocentric to thoroughly self-absorbed, thus they will interpret the world in terms of their own thoughts, their own feelings, and how they would act if in the same situation as others.  As such, they tend to dismiss or show a lack of empathy toward anything outside of their understanding of the world while they will rationalize wrongdoings they have done, even if they would condemn others for it.  They will also show a lack of empathy toward their victims while sympathizing with abusive individuals who remind them of their selves.

12.      Although people new to a relationship try to impress each other by “putting their best foot forward,” maturing relationships reveal faults.  If a companion continually and aggressively avoids showing his, or her, “true self,” particularly in familiar and comfortable situations, the relationship is very likely to devolve into a dysfunctional to abusive situation as the relationship becomes more and more difficult to dissolve on an emotional, social, and financial level.  It is not, however, advisable to “test” or “toy with” others in order to reveal their “true colors.”  If you try to provoke a negative response, you will mostly likely get a negative response.

11.      If a relationship is progressing too quickly, you may find yourself being lured into an emotional, social, and financial trap.  When an individual becomes increasingly dependent upon another, the more influential individual tends to become more demanding and controlling of the dependent individual.  If your new companion immediately presses you to have sex, to move in together, talks about marriage right away, or wants to have children as soon as possible, this could be a sign that he, or she, is entangling you in a relationship that cannot easily be dissolved.  This is a warning that controlling and other abusive behavior may dominate your relationship as time progresses.

10.      Someone who has uncontrollable mood swings where he, or she, is sweet one moment then rude and downright abrasive the next is likely to become abusive as a relationship progresses.

9.        Because abusive individuals try to control the decisions and actions of others, they often fear a lack of control.  As such, one of the earliest signs of domestic abuse is jealousy.  If you are in a relationship where your companion feels agitated when out of contact with you, constantly demands to know your whereabouts whenever you are not together, or makes unfounded accusations of you cheating , or  even starts following you on a regular basis, you are likely in an abusive relationship that is going to get worse.

8.        If you are in a relationship with someone who has a history of violence or you learn this person has been abusive in the past, you need to be vigilant and take steps to prevent your relationship from degenerating into an abusive situation.  While an abusive person may deny claims of past abuse, make excuses, or expect you to accept believe he, or she, has changed, it is very easy for past abusers to regress to their abusive tendencies.  Awareness is the first defense against abuse and being aware of an abusive history means you can help stop future abuse if you take the right steps when the abuse starts.

7.        Under stress, does your companion violently or inappropriately threaten, insult, and/or engage in other forms of abuse.  When feeling comfortable or safe, does this individual feel the need to constantly belittle and degrade you in order to have a good time?  Conversely, does your companion respond to friendly teasing with inappropriate responses or become extremely angry when treated in a similarly manner despite initiating the exchange?  Because abusive people disenfranchise their targets, they often have double standards, including a feeling of grave injustice when they feel victimized in the slightest bit while inflicting harsh punitive measure on those who they feel have offended them.

6.        If you are in a relationship with someone who blames you for the way he, or she, feels, if everything you do, or say, is interpreted as a personal attack, this is a sign that you are in a combative relationship filled with conflicts that may eventually degenerate into violent altercations.

5.        If your companion decides who you can talk to and/or when you can talk to them, this is an example of controlling behavior.  Do you always have to ask permission to go out with a friend or repeatedly face backlash if you see someone without his, or her, consent.  Does he, or she, limit what you are “allowed” to do, especially if he, or she, does as he, or she, pleases?  Does he, or she, constantly make decisions for you?  Does your significant often discount your feelings?  If you can answer yes to any of these question, you are in an unhealthy to abusive relationship.  Although there are ways to inappropriately express your feelings and pursue what you want, how you feel is never wrong while you are an individual entitled to your free will and to disagree with those in your life.

4.        Because abuse is a mentality, overly aggressive and violent behavior toward other people, especially children, animals, and even objects serve as bold warning signs that someone is abusive.  Does your companion punch walls, tables, constantly call others names, or try to instill fear into others?  Does he, or she, degrade children and pets or use force to control those he, or she, has influence over.  These are all signs that this person will eventually become violent toward you.

3.        If you are in a relationship where your partner tries to isolate you from the people who care about you or tries to prevent you from going to work, seek outside help immediately.  This is a sign that you are in a thoroughly abusive relationship that will only escalate with time as you become increasingly isolated and dependent.

2.        If your significant other forcefully coerces you into having sex against your will or responds in an explosive manner until you have sex, these are signs of an abusive relationship that could become violent.

1.        Does your partner often engaged in violent behavior?  Has he, or she, been violent toward you or others?  This is a sign of escalating abuse.  Although violence is a natural response to threats and there are situations where a proportionate response to the violence of others is appropriate, violence for any other purpose is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.  Seek professional help immediately.

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