Red Flags: Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality
Jealousy: At the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealousy with love. The abuser will question his partner about whom she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or become jealous of time spent with others.
Controlling Behavior: In the beginning, an abuser will attribute his/her controlling behavior to concern for his/her partner. As this behavior progresses, the situation will worsen. The batterer may assume all control of finances or prevent partner from coming or going at her own will.
Quick Involvement: A battered woman often has known or dated her abuser for less than six months before moving in together, getting engaged, or getting married. An abuser will pressure his partner to commit to the relationship. Later, a victim may feel guilty for wanting to slow the pace or end the relationship.
Unrealistic Expectations: Abusers expect their partners to meet all of their needs by taking care of the abuser’s emotional or domestic desires.
Isolation: An abuser will attempt to isolate his/her partner by severing his/her ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse others, such as the victim’s friends and family, of being “troublemakers.” The abuser may block his partner’s access to use of a vehicle, cell phone, computer, or ability to get or keep a job.
Blames Others for Problems: An abuser will blame others for his shortcomings. Someone is always out to get him, or is an obstacle to his achievements. The victim or potential victim will be blamed for almost anything that goes wrong. The abuser doesn’t take responsibility for his choices to abuse or use controlling behavior.
Blames Others for Feelings: An abuser will use feelings to manipulate his victim.
Common phrases: “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want.” “You control how I feel” or “You make me mad.”
Hypersensitivity: An abusive person is easily insulted. He/She perceives the slightest setbacks as personal attacks.
Cruelty to animals or children: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. He/she may expect children to perform beyond their capabilities, for example, spanking a 2-year old for wetting a diaper, or teasing or tickling children or siblings until they cry.
“Playful” Use of Force During Sex: This includes restraining a partner against her will during sex; acting out fantasies in which the partner is helpless; initiating sex when the partner is asleep; or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired. The abuser may show little concern for his partner’s wishes and will use sulking and anger to manipulate compliance.
Verbal Abuse: This behavior involves saying things that are intended to be cruel and hurtful, cursing or degrading their partner, or putting down their partner’s accomplishments.
Rigid Sex Roles: The victim, almost always a woman, will be expected to serve. For instance, a male abuser will usually view women as inferior to men, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
Dual Personality: “Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde” behavior; explosive behavior and moodiness, which can shift quickly to congeniality, are typical or people who beat their partners. Abusers are very often well-liked, and exceptionally charming with others, while cruel and mean to their partners.
History of Violence/Past Battering: A certain person or situation does not make someone abusive. If someone has been abusive to a partner in the past, they are almost certain to be abusive to future partners. If s/he claims to have gotten help to make themselves less abusive, ask questions and determine what kind of “help” that person received.
Threats of Violence: Any threats of physical force meant to control their partners. Most people do not threaten their mates, but an abuser will excuse this behavior by claiming that “everyone talks like that.”
Breaking or Striking Objects: This behavior is used as punishment (breaking sentimental possessions) or to terrorize the victim into submission.
Any Force During An Argument: This may involve an abuser holding down his or her partner; physically restraining the partner from leaving; or pushing or shoving. Holding someone back in order to make demands, such as “You will listen to me!” is also a show of force, as is restraining someone so she can’t leave. Strangling is a significant red flag for lethal violence.
Alcohol or Drug Abuse: Not a cause of domestic violence, but makes it more dangerous.
Other warning signs of an abusive personality:
- Driving fast or recklessly to scare partner
- Victim afraid of how partner will react
- Victim’s family and friends are worried