Sometimes women especially misinterpret abusive behaviors as sign of care or love. The behaviors mentioned below will help you differentiate.
Common abusive behaviors
Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling, verbally threatening.
Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with their demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly dialing (1471 in UK or number/code used to find out numbers that called you for your country of residence) to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.
Threats: making angry gestures, using physical gestures to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun.
Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex; any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling, raping.
Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.
What are the warning signs of an abuser?
The warning signs listed below should make you wary but rather than focusing on single acts, look for patterns of behaviour that show control, restriction and disrespect. No one should be frightened of their partner or prevented from making choices about their life.
Remember also that abusers are often very charming and convincing to everyone – including their partners, until the abuse starts – and then they often continue to be very charming to everyone else except their partner.
This often has the effect of making their partner think, “oh it must be me, it must be my fault”, especially since the abuser is usually telling them it is. It can also make them feel awkward about telling other people because they won’t seem plausible because they only know their ‘nice’ side.
The single biggest warning sign is:
- If they’ve been in a violent relationship before. Abusive people rarely change.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking ‘it will be different with me – they didn’t treat them right’. It’s also worth remembering that almost without exception, every abuser claims that they were really the victim.
Other possible warning signs are:
- They put your friends down and / or make it difficult for you to see them.
- They lose their temper over trivial things.
- They have very rigid ideas about the roles of men and women and can’t / won’t discuss it reasonably.
- Their mood swings are so erratic that you find yourself constantly trying to assess their mood and only think in terms of their needs. A healthy relationship has give and take.
- It’s difficult for you to get emotional or physical space away from them – even if you directly ask for it. And if you do get it, they ‘grill’ you about where you’ve been and whom you were with.
- They criticise you all the time – about your weight, your hair, your clothes, etc.
- They make all the decisions in your relationship and ignore your needs or dismiss them as unimportant.