People with abusive tendencies are usually able to hide this behavior early in relationships, states psychologist Steven Stosny in his article for Psychology Today titled, "Are You Dating An Abuser?" They can actually be quite charming. Warning signs will eventually present themselves, however. When you are aware of the most subtle indicators of danger, you may be able to detect a risk and create a plan to stay safe before enduring any serious trauma.
There are a multitude of circumstances that can contribute to the likelihood of abuse. Issues such as a history of violence toward others -- including animals, access to weapons and threats of suicide -- can exponentially increase the potential for lethality in a relationship, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Struggles with poor mental health and addiction to substances also contribute to the potential for danger, says a resource distributed by the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law titled, "Myths and Realities of Domestic Abuse." Although none of these factors specifically cause abuse, they are significant warning signs of danger. For instance, studies cited by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals indicate that most women and children who report abuse also report violence toward animals in the home. Such acts are committed to "perpetuate an environment of fear" and "prevent the victim from leaving."
Blame and Responsibility
People who are abusive do not take responsibility for their behavior. Instead, they blame others for their actions, which in turn allows them to feel justified, states Stosny. If you confront your boyfriend upon learning that he has been cheating, for example, he may respond by saying, "Well, it's not like you ever really appreciated me. I had to get affection somewhere." Blaming you for decisions he makes can potentially be quite dangerous, since it can happen in any context. It might mean that he is capable of assaulting you in some way, and feel quite righteous about it, as in, "If you didn't act so stupid, I wouldn't have to hit you just to shut you up!"
Isolation and Stalking
People who are abusive tend to isolate their victims from friends and family members, which is a red flag for abuse listed with the National Network to End Domestic Violence. The abusive partner tries to break down any systems of support their victims might have. Batterers then become their partners' main source of comfort and companionship. This allows them a sizable amount of control over their partners' emotions. If your partner tries to isolate you, he is also creating the ability to monitor your actions as much as possible, so he will know where you are and who you are with. This behavior is dangerous because it can systematically destroy your identity and sense of freedom, in turn lowering your self-esteem. Make deliberate efforts to stay connected with your loved ones, even if it means asking someone to visit "unexpectedly" if you haven't been in touch for a while.
Many victims of abuse report that emotional and verbal assaults are just as traumatic as physical ones -- possibly even more so. This type of mistreatment includes criticism, violations of your personal boundaries and accusations of infidelity, according to information distributed by Love Is Respect, an online resource dedicated to cultivating healthy relationships. This type of abuse often results in depression, anxiety and lowered self-esteem. Moreover, violence often escalates over time, so even someone that was only psychologically abusive for years can become physically dangerous. If your partner has been psychologically abusive, consider contacting your local battered women's agency for assisting with creating a plan for your safety.
- Psychology Today: Are You Dating An Abuser?: Steven Stosny, Ph.D.
- Love Is Respect: Is This Abuse?
- National Network to End Domestic Violence: Red Flags of Abuse
- University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law: Myths and Realities of Domestic Abuse
- Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence: DV Fatality Risk Factors
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Domestic Violence and Animal Cruelty