When I worked with batterers, people always asked why the women stayed. Why didn’t they ask why the offenders were violent? Is it because it’s easier to blame the victim? Is it because these abusive men scare us as much as they scare their victims, so it’s easier to confront them?
Women (and I mainly talk about women—because my experience is all with male abusers and female victims) often don’t recognize patterens of abuse until they are in so deep that escaping takes more money or power or strength than they can muster. Abusive people usually know how to put the glitter out in the beginning. Few fall in love with the abusive partner–we fall for that funny, charming, attentive guy. Then, when the warning signs start, and we chafe against it, he knows how to bring back that funny, charmer when it’s needed. Or the sad “no one but you understands me” guy. And the “forgive me, this will never happen again–and I’ve never loved anyone like I love you” guy.
Pay attention to the warning signs that you may be in an abusive relationship. ( And remember, though these warnings are written in the guise of straight man/straight woman, abuse knows no gender or sexual preference boundaries:)
Jealousy: Does he want to be with you constantly? Accuse of you cheating? Follow you? Call far too often?
Controlling Behavior: Does he become angry if you’re late, always need to know who you were with, where you went, what you wore, and what you said? Do you have to ask permission to do things? Does he want veto power over your friendships?
Instant Involvement: Be careful of a man who claims ‘love at first sight’, and says that you are the ‘only one who can make him feel this way.’ Be cautious of a man who pressures you for commitment too quickly, perhaps suggesting that you move in together or become engaged within 6 months of meeting.
Unrealistic Expectations: This may seem strange, but compliments that seem excessive are a warning sign. Beware those who see or expect perfection, and those who say, “you are all I need; I am all you need.”
Isolation: Controlling and abusive men will try to cut off your resources and distance you from your friends and family, perhaps by telling you that your family doesn’t love you or that you are too dependent on them. They will say your friends are stupid. They will keep you from the car, get angry when you talk on the phone, and make it difficult for you to go to school or work.
Blames Others for Problems: For controlling and abusive men, any problems they have at school or work are always someone else’s fault. In the relationship, anything that goes wrong is because of you. They consider themselves a victim in almost all circumstances.
Blames Others for Feelings: Beware of men who make you feel responsible for how they feel, who see everything as a personal attack, are easily insulted, and who have tantrums about the injustice of things that happen to them. Abusive men will look for fights, blow things out of proportion, and overreact to small irritations.
Disrespectful or Cruel to Others: Dangerous men will punish animals and children cruelly. They are insensitive to pain and suffering and have expectations of children that surpass abilities. They tease children until they cry and treat people disrespectfully.
Use of Force During Sex: When men show little concern over whether you want sex or not and use sulking or anger to manipulate you into sexual compliance, this is a warning sign. Degrading sexual remarks about you should be taken as indication of a serious problem.
Rigid Sex Roles: Abusive men often believe that women are inferior to men and that a woman cannot be a whole person without a relationship.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Beware of men who are nice one moment and explode the next, and men who have rapid and extreme mood swings.
Past Battering: Abusers will deny and minimize their past violence, saying it is a lie, or their ex is crazy, or that is wasn’t that bad.
Breaking or Striking Objects: Violent men will break things, beat on tables, throw objects, and use other methods to inspire fear.
Any Force during an Argument: No one should be physically restrained, pushed, or shoved. Any use of weapons, kicking, hitting, slapping, or other physical violence is abuse.
Let’s all stay safe out there.
If you need help: