Profile of an Abuser
by Rebecca Hieronymi
Many survivors of intimate partner violence often find themselves looking back and wondering how they could have missed the red flags that signal a romantic partner is potentially controlling, jealous or violent. No one ever plans to venture out into the dating world and choose an abusive partner, and abusers don’t typically begin a relationship being violent and controlling.
The transition from love to control and violence is often slow and inconspicuous. So, is it possible to spot an abuser before you get involved? We can’t generalize and say all abusers are this way or that way, but we can look at the statistics and see there are some factors that contribute to the likelihood of someone becoming abusive, and knowing these factors may help you identify risks when it comes to potential partners.
Here are 12 signs a person could become abusive:
1. A history of abuse or being physically abusive
2. Being physically or sexually abused as a child
3. Lack of appropriate coping skills
4. Low self-esteem
5. Having few friends or being socially isolated
6. Codependent behavior
7. Untreated mental illness
8. Drug or alcohol abuse
9. Socioeconomic pressures
11. A prior criminal arrest history
12. Belief in strict gender roles
Statistics show us that abusers do share some psychological traits as well, such as, a hatred or hostility toward women, cruelty toward animals, a controlling nature, jealousy, inability to admit fault or take blame, and a desperation to move the relationship quickly – confesses their love quickly and wants to move in together immediately, uses words like “soulmate” or says you were meant for each other. Abusers want to isolate victims or make them emotionally dependent as quickly as possible.
Having one or more of these factors does not guarantee they will become abusive; however, abusers may try to use one or more of the above as excuses to justify their abuse. Regardless of what the abuser has gone through in their life, their mental health, or anything the survivor has done or said, abuse is ALWAYS a choice. Abusers use tactics to gain and keep control over a partner for personal benefit. They want a survivor to comply with their demands; cater to them; be subservient or submissive; and have unlimited access to the survivor’s time, attention, money and body.
The proverb “hindsight is 20/20” means that it is easy to understand something after it has already happened. When it comes to domestic violence, often it is only later that we can see the abuser objectively, without romantic or obsessive feelings of what we believe is love clouding our judgement. If you feel like you were completely blind sided by an abuser’s power and control tactics, missed every red flag, stayed longer than you should, or went back more times than you wanted to, abuse is never your fault and is not something you deserved just because you missed the signs.
If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Please contact us locally at 256.574.5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000, or at our website www.csna.org. Advocates provide free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.