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Abusers share traits that serve as warnings

May 18, 2009

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Seeking help

• Headquarters Counseling Center: 841-2345 or (888) 899-2345, www.hqcc.lawrence.ks.us • Women’s Transitional Care Services: 843-3333, (800) 770-3030, www.sunflower.com/~wtcs/ • GaDuGi SafeCenter: Call Headquarters Counseling Center and request a rape victim-survivor-service advocate. • National Domestic Violence Coalition: (800) 799-7233, www.ndvh.org.

Please note: Cell phones and home computers shared with an abuser are not safe to use.

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.

1. “Love at first sight”

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.

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.

2. Lack of accountability

Whether it’s getting fired or putting their hands on you, nothing abusers say or do 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.

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.

3. Verbal abuse

Statistics show that most abusers don’t physically hit or kick their victims during the first argument but instead put you down. It may begin as “jokes” that hurt and humiliate you (usually followed with a comment about how you are “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?”

4. 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 OK, 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.

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.

5. Always sorry

After abusers release 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 promising to 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: An apology for repeated “mistakes” shouldn’t be coming your way every Tuesday or even every other month. 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 to do with you. Change takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and for abusers, a lot of therapy.

6. Dislikes 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.

Protect yourself: Maintain outside relationships and pay attention to the concerns of friends and loved ones. If they are telling you they are worried, don’t brush it off as simply not liking your partner.

7. 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.”

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