You cannot tell just by looking at a person whether or not they are an abuser. An abuser may be your next door neighbor, a friend, someone with whom you work, or a person whom you pass on the street. They may hold high profile jobs, be out of work, using drugs, or have a drinking problem. No level of society is exempt. There are certain characteristics that most abusers share. Below is a list of mannerisms that may identify a potential abuser, but it does not necessarily mean because a person displays these mannerisms that they are an abuser.
Family History: If your partner was raised in a family where abuse was commonplace, there is greater potential that they may in turn become an abuser. Their family life has been one of violence for as long as they remember. Consequently, violence and abuse are a natural way of life to them.
Jealousy: Is your partner jealous of the time you spend with friends and family? Does he/she constantly accuse you flirting with others? As jealousy progresses, your partner may call you frequently during the day or come home unexpectedly. In some cases you may be asked or forced to quit working. The abuser will say that jealousy is a sign of love and concern when in fact it has nothing to do with love. Jealousy is a sign of possessiveness, insecurity, and lack of trust.
Controlling Behavior: Does your partner become angry when you don’t listen? Are you constantly being questioned if you are late coming home from shopping, work, or an appointment? Is your partner the one who controls the money, makes all household decisions, and tells you what you can or can’t wear? Does this person try to confine you to the house or to a particular room within the house? The abuser will explain this behavior as being motivated by their concern for your safety and welfare. This behavior serves the need of the abuser to dominate, rather than fulfill the needs of their partner.
Quick Involvement: Where you “swept off your feet”? Did your partner proclaim love at first sight? Were you pressured into committing to a relationship before you felt ready? Were you made to feel guilty if you wanted to take more time to really get to know the person? Many abused people dated or knew their abusers for less than six months before making a commitment to them.
Isolation: Is your partner constantly criticizing your friends and family? Are there complaints that you spend too much time with friends and family and that you are neglecting or ignoring him/her? Does it sometimes seem too much trouble to visit with friends and family? Do you inevitably end up staying home instead of going out? An abuser will try to isolate the victim from friends, family, or anyone who may be able to help. The abuser knows that the more contacts the victim has, the more likely they are to defy the abuser and leave.
Blames Others for Problems: Are you blamed for your partner’s mistakes? Are you told that life is unfair and everyone is out to get them? Abusive people do not hold themselves accountable for the abuse they commit and rarely take responsibility for their actions. They manipulate the victim into believing that it was their fault and eventually the victim ends up believing this to be true.
Hypersensitivity: Everyday occurrences such as being asked to do chores, to work overtime, or suffering slight setbacks are seen as insults or personal attacks by the abuser. They usually are quick-tempered and lash out spontaneously at other people. Abusers typically have low self-esteem, and their self-confidence may be so fragile that even constructive criticism is seen as a threat.
Cruelty to Animals or Children: Often the abuser seems insensitive to pain and suffering of animals if he is punishing them. Children may be expected to do things far beyond their abilities and may not be allowed to eat at the table or be in the same room with the adults of the household. Often they will tease children to the point of the child crying. Insensitivity to children or animals is common in abusers because abusive people are generally not considerate of the feeling of others. Sixty percent (60%) of men who beat the women they are with also beat their children.
“Playful” use of Force in Sex: The abuser may demand sex even when their partner is ill, tired, or just not in the mood. Victims are sometimes expected to act out fantasies which degrade and sicken them and make them feel helpless. Use of manipulation by sulking or anger is used in order to gain compliance. Abusers enjoy having power over their partners, and sex is one way they can feel in control. Many abusers find the idea of rape exciting. Rape, like abuse, is about power over another person.
Verbal Abuse: The abuser will try to thwart their partner’s self-confidence by putting them down, saying hurtful and cruel things, making fun of them, embarrassing them in public, and downplaying their accomplishment or things they take pride in. At times they may be awakened and not allowed to sleep and are forced to endure this behavior.
Rigid Sex Roles: Many male abusers see women as being inferior to men. They figure that a woman is incapable of functioning as a whole person unless they are in a relationship. They believe in male supremacy and the stereotyped masculine sex role in the family. They determine that the woman is their own personal slave and that the woman should obey all orders they are given. Because they see women in this role, they feel that gives them the right to abuse and dominate their partner.