5 Warning Signs of an Abuser
Note on gender usage:
Disclaimer: Even though men are also victims of domestic violence, “he” and “him” are used for the abuser and “she” and “her” for the victim. This is used here as a convenience to avoid confused he/she she/he sentences. Although most physically violent abusers are male and their victims are female, women can also be violent abusers. Women also abuse differently than men. So men please go here to the male page.
Recognizing an abuser is a skill that everyone needs especially single women and teenage girls.
Before an abuser starts emotionally, psychologically or physically
abusing his victim, he typically demonstrates his abusive tactics
through certain behaviors.
The following are five major warning signs and some common examples:
- Emotional Abuse
This is the most deceitful warning sign, as good men are also
charming. Abusers can be very charming. In the beginning, they may seem
to be a Knight in Shining Armor or Prince Charming personified. This
behavior is used when they are in their version of “infatuation.” They
are great listeners, but while the truly good person will be listening
with empathy, the abuser listens to get information that can be used
against his victim as soon as his “infatuation” stage is over.
He can be an excellent listener, considerate, engaging, thoughtful,
and charismatic. He may use that charm to gain very personal information
about her. He will use that information later to manipulate her to his
For example; he will ask if you have ever been abused by anyone. If
you says, “Yes”, he will act outraged that anyone could treat a woman
and especially you that way. Then when he becomes abusive, he will tell
you that no one will believe you if you tell anyone that he abuses you,
because you said that before and it must be your fault or two people
would not have hit you.
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.
If he says, “Let’s not visit those friend, because they don’t like me,” then the warning bells should be ringing.
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 a whore or a slut.
4. Emotional Abuse
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
These 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.
Recognizing an abuser is a skill that every single woman and teenage girl needs.