O, Solo Mio: Protecting Yourself from an Abusive Relationship
Abusers Share Traits That Can Serve As Warning Signs
The abuse of music superstar, Robyn Rihanna Fenty (known to the world as Rihanna”) has thrust domestic violence out of the shadows and onto center stage, opening discussions, heightening concerns and even sparking heated debates as to what it might mean for the superstar’s career should she stay with alleged abuser boyfriend, Chris Brown.
While the picture of a battered and bruised superstar shocked the world, statistics say that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men could relate to it in some way. While there is not a completely fail-proof way to protect yourself from entering a violent relationship, abusers often share some common personality traits that can serve as warning signs. Read below to find out what they are.
A Love at First Sight Beginning
Many victims of abuse detail a romantic courtship where the abuser came on strong and professed their love and desire to move in together or even get married within the first few months of dating. The abuser may have started discussing the future in the first few weeks of dating or demanded exclusivity soon after meeting the victim.
Protect Yourself: It takes time to get to know someone enough to love them and an instant need for a total connection stems from desperation and a desire for others to fill a need within oneself. Take your time when getting to know someone and be weary of giving up your own home or ring finger too soon.
Lack of Accountability
Whether it’s getting fired or putting their hands on you, nothing an abuser says or does is their fault. If the person you are with is always reacting to others and using “You make me” statements such as “You make me so angry I throw things” or even “You make me whole” be aware. It shows they see themselves as totally reactive and out-of-control of their own lives.
Protect Yourself: We are all completely responsible for everything we choose to say and do in our lives. Others might make us angry or hurt our feelings but we choose how we will respond. You are never responsible for someone choosing to insult, push, punch or otherwise harm you. When someone blames you or others for their behavior, don’t accept it as the truth.
They Verbally Abuse You
Statistics show that most abusers don’t physically hit or kick their victims during the first argument but instead their lashings with their tongues. It may begin as jokes that hurt and humiliate you (usually followed with a comment about your being too sensitive) or mentioning how they don’t know how you would function on your own. Before you know it, you’re being called names and grabbed. Abuse escalates over time and most verbally abusive relationships get physical at some point.
Protect Yourself: We have all said things in anger that we regret but, as a rule, healthy adults speak to one another with respect. If your partner is insulting your intelligence, putting you down or otherwise speaking to you in a manner that makes you feel insecure, belittled and disrespected, it’s not OK. Ask yourself, “Do others in my life speak to me this way?” No one deserves to be a victim of vicious language.
A Need for Total Control
Abusive men and women often seem concerned and loving in the beginning of a relationship. They may claim they get angry out of worry or a desire to make sure you are O.K. but as time moves on, their need to control everything from what you wear to where you go becomes suffocating and many victims find themselves walking on eggshells to please their partner. They will stop wearing so much makeup or avoid accepting plans that do not include the abuser just to avoid the argument.
Protect Yourself: A partner being upset that you didn’t call when you were going to be running an hour late is one thing but constantly fighting to mold you into who they think you should be is unhealthy. Pay attention to how your body feels. Concern feels different than control. One is caring and loving while the other feels suffocating and even a bit scary. If you feel picked apart or living in a constant state of not good enough as is, you’re not in a healthy situation.
They’re Always Sorry
After the abuser releases their anger, they are usually full of shame and regret. They will often say and do whatever they believe their victim needs them to in order to take them back and forgive them. This might include buying expensive gifts, crying, promising to change or even promise to go and get outside help. These episodes are often followed by a “Honeymoon Period” during which the abuser is on his or her best behavior. As time passes, the situation moves back into old patterns and the abuse happens again.
Protect Yourself: No relationship is perfect and we all make mistakes but an apology for similar mistakes shouldn’t be coming your way every Tuesday or even every other month. Forgiveness is something loving people do and abusers play on this theme and take advantage of their victims love. You might feel sorry for the abuser or be so in love with them that you want to believe they can change out of love for you but the fact is, their need to abuse is about something deeply embedded in them and has nothing at all to do with you or your relationship. Change takes a lot of work and a lot of time and for abusers, a lot of therapy. It does not usually happen that an abuser will simply make a decision and become healthy over night.
They Dislike Your Support System
Not every friend and loved one will become best pals with your partner but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain your own relationship with both, in spite of their differences or lack of connection. Abusive men and women will often demand you cut off contact or criticize your relationships with others as a way to isolate and gain more control over you. The less outside influence you have (and fewer eyes looking in to the abuse) the more power they gain over you.
Protect Yourself: Maintain your outside relationships and pay attention to the concerns of friends and loved ones. If the people who have been there for you and loved you for years before the relationship are telling you they are worried, don’t brush it off as simply not liking your partner.
They Have Two Faces
Abusers come in all shapes and sizes and most of them are not the nasty, violent town drunks but men and women who are often seen as “charming” and “kind” to outsiders. They have a keen ability to keep their abusive ways hidden which can reinforce the idea that the victim is the reason they become violent.
Protect Yourself: Be aware of sudden mood changes. If your partner is happy one minute and violent another, take it as a red flag. Most people get upset gradually and do not go from 0-60″.
Other Warning Signs:
1. They throw, punch or otherwise destroy objects
2. They harm animals/children
3. They believe a woman has her place
4. They abuse drugs, alcohol, or even sex
5. They don’t take no for an answer with sex and pressure you or use force
6. They show signs of extreme jealousy
7. They are or have been violent with others
If You Are Being Abused: Please contact The National Domestic Violence Coalition at 1.800.799. 7233 (SAFE) from a secure phone or visit online at http://www.ndvh.org/
Please note: Cell phones and home computers shared with an abuser are not safe to use.